Category Archives: European Union

Macedonia, the New US-Russia Battlefield

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

Macedonia is a poor, landlocked Balkan country of about 2 million. To the Kremlin, it’s also the newest front in an ideological battle, with the U.S. fomenting regime change to counter Russia’s influence. As is often the case, that view is correct to the extent that Russian interests are aligned with those of a corrupt authoritarian ruler.

Here’s what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had to say last week:

I cannot judge for sure, but it so happens objectively that these events in Macedonia are unfolding against the background of the Macedonian government’s refusal to join sanctions against Russia and an active support from Skopje for the plans to build the Turkish Stream pipeline, to which many in Brussels and across the Atlantic are opposed. We cannot get rid of this feeling that there’s some sort of a connection.

The origins of this conjecture, and Lavrov’s sarcasm, are clear. The Kremlin couldn’t help being suspicious about the timing of Macedonia’s political crisis.’

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A Toxic Affair: How the chemical lobby blocked action on hormone disrupting chemicals

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

An investigation led by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and journalist Stéphane Horel exposes corporate lobby groups mobilising to stop the EU taking action on hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The report sheds light on how corporations and their lobby groups have used numerous tactics from the corporate lobbying playbook: scaremongering, evidence-discrediting, and delaying tactics, as well as using the ongoing TTIP negotiations as a leverage. But industry’s interests were also defended by actors within the Commission.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are present in everyday products – from plastics and cosmetics to pesticides. Because of their ability to interact with the hormonal (endocrine) systems of living organisms, they are suspected of having severe health and environmental impacts.

EU law demands action be taken on endocrine disruptors, with clear deadlines set. According to these rules, if a chemical is identified as an endocrine disruptor, a ban follows. The current approach is that chemicals are assessed following risk assessment procedures and safe levels of exposure are set accordingly. However, for endocrine disruptors it might be impossible to set such ‘safe’ levels.

The Directorate-General (DG) for the Environment of the European Commission was put in charge of establishing a set of scientific criteria for ‘what is an endocrine disruptor’. The chemical industry lobby was up in arms at the potential banning of some EDCs. The main lobby groups involved were the chemical and pesticide lobbies (CEFIC – European Chemical Industry Council & ECPA – European Crop Protection Association), and the corporations at the forefront were BASF and Bayer. But they found allies in various member states, actors within the European Commission, and in the European Parliament.’

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How NATO deliberately destroyed Libya’s water infrastructure

Nafeez Ahmed writes at The Cutting Edge:

‘The military targeting of civilian infrastructure, especially of water supplies, is a war crime under international law and the Geneva Conventions.

Yet this is what NATO did in Libya, and the results have worsened today.

Numerous reports comment on the water crisis that is escalating across Libya as consumption outpaces production. Some have noted the environmental context in regional water scarcity due to climate change, but what they ignore is the fact that the complex national irrigation system that had been carefully built and maintained over decades to overcome this problem was targeted and disrupted by NATO.

During the 2011 military invasion, press reports surfaced, mostly citing pro-rebel sources, claiming that pro-Gaddafi loyalists had shut down the water supply system as a mechanism to win the war and punish civilians.

This is a lie.’

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Obama’s plans for trade deals with Asia (TTP) and Europe (TTIP) in tatters after Senate vote

Dan Roberts, Sabrina Siddiqui and Dominic Rushe report for The Guardian:

US  President Barack Obama delivers remarks on trade at Nike's corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon May 8, 2015 (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)Barack Obama’s ambitions to pass sweeping new free trade agreements with Asia and Europe fell at the first hurdle on Tuesday as Senate Democrats put concerns about US manufacturing jobs ahead of arguments that the deals would boost global economic growth.

A vote to push through the bill failed as 45 senators voted against it, to 52 in favor. Obama needed 60 out of the 100 votes for it to pass.

Failure to secure so-called “fast track” negotiating authority from Congress leaves the president’s top legislative priority in tatters.

It may also prove the high-water mark in decades of steady trade liberalisation that has fuelled globalisation but is blamed for exacerbating economic inequality within many developed economies.’

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E.U. Seeks U.N. Backing for Military Action to Stop Wave of Migrants Fleeing Horrific Abuse in Libya: Interview with Magda Mughrabi

‘The European Union is expected to ask the United Nations Security Council today to permit military action against human traffickers operating out of Libya. The U.N. estimates more than 60,000 people have already tried to cross the Mediterranean from Libya into Europe this year. Over 1,800 migrants have died in the attempt, 20 times more than the same period last year. Meanwhile, the European Commission is due to make a proposal that member countries take in refugees under an E.U. quota system. The European Commission’s migration policy will also propose organizing legal means for migrants to come to Europe so they don’t turn to traffickers. This comes as a new report by Amnesty International reveals how migrants are forced to flee Libya because of “horrific abuse.” The report is based on interviews with refugees and migrants across Libya who face “rape, torture and abductions for ransom by traffickers and smugglers, as well as systematic exploitation by their employers, religious persecution and other abuses by armed groups and criminal gangs.” We are joined by the report’s author, Magda Mughrabi, Libya Researcher at Amnesty International.’ (Democracy Now!)

Corruption in Italy: a resilient equilibrium

Andrea Capussela and Vito Intini write for Open Democracy:

That corruption is widespread in Italy is a well-established fact. Its harmful effects on public finances, SMEs, the quality of public investments, productivity, and trust in the country’s institutions increases informality in the economy. This vicious cycle tends to keep corruption in Italy at a high level.

Nadia Fiorino, Emma Galli and Ilaria Petrarca have all shown that corruption in Italy is negatively correlated with economic growth for the period between 1980-2004. According to Fabio Monteduro, if Italy had corruption scores similar to those of relatively more virtuous countries, its economy would have grown two to three times faster than it has. In addition, citizens tend to show a lower level of satisfaction with democracy in countries where parties rely more heavily on clientelistic strategies.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, corruption in Italy does not seem to be a cultural issue. According to the latest survey by Eurobarometer, Italian respondents are consistently below the EU average in deeming corrupt practices acceptable.’

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Sweden “ruled by unelected policy plotters”

From The Local:

'Sweden is ruled by unelected policy plotters'[…] There are many ideas about the causes of this crisis of confidence for Swedish democracy’s central institutions. In a recently completed research project at the Institute for Future Studies (Institutet för framtidsstudier) we have chosen to investigate a largely unknown category of political powerbrokers whom we have chosen to label ‘the policy professionals’. These are people who are neither elected nor selected by the members of, for example, a large trade union, but are hired to conduct politics. They can be found virtually everywhere in the political system, for example in government and parliament offices, within the political parties, in local authorities, in trade unions and other lobby organizations as well as, not least, at PR firms and so called think tanks. They have a plethora of different titles: common ones are policial expert, press officer, political secretary, head of social policy, speech writer, communications director and so on.

It is true that people of this kind have long existed in our political system, ever since former Prime Minister Olof Palme was hired as secretary to the sitting Prime Minister at the time, Tage Erlander, in 1953. What has happened over the past two decades is that this group has grown to such an extent that one can speak of this as a qualitatively new means of political influence. To quantify the group is not easy, but according to our estimate it today includes at least 2,500 people. For the past ten years, a Swedish Prime Minister has had more political appointees in his government offices than the number of parliament MPs needed to run the country. Our investigation shows that this is a group that exerts a significant but largely invisible influence on Swedish politics. This is by no means a group that only serves its elected officials but they participate directly, and often on their own initiative, in the formulation of policies, proposals and strategies.’

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Extreme finance: the European far-right and its funding

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

[…] While there is no suggestion that UKIP has itself accepted donations from the Heritage Foundation (that would be illegal under UK party funding rules), the implication of this article is that UKIP has brokered a relationship to try to help another extreme far-right political group in the EU. The Heritage Foundation is a well-known right-wing think-tank espousing “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense”. It has a record of funding European climate-sceptical thinktanks.

Meanwhile the Front National has admitted accepting (link is external)a €9 million loan from the First Czech Russian Bank, which is based in Moscow and is owned by Kremlin ally oligarch Roman Popov. The loan was apparently brokered by Front National MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser. Denying any impropriety, Marine Le Pen has said: “What is scandalous is that French banks aren’t lending”.

On this occasion at least, the European banks who refused to lend to the Front National have got it right. For extreme, far-right groups it seems easy to spout the rhetoric of independence and patriotism, and rather less easy to follow it when it comes to accepting funding.’

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David Cameron and the European Commission: Doing the business of business

Vicky Cann writes for Open Democracy:

Nobody likes the thought of ‘red tape’, over-regulation, and excessive ‘administrative burdens’. But what about rules to protect workers, the environment, and food safety? Actually, these are two sides of the same coin and right now a war is being fought in London and Brussels ostensibly against the former but actually against the latter.

Despite the self-promoted image of David Cameron standing up for Britain against the EU’s so-called bloated bureaucracy, there are some remarkable synergies between his record and that of the European Commission, especially in the area of deregulation and cutting ‘red tape’.

In the UK, the deregulation agenda embarked upon by the coalition hasn’t received the attention it deserves. What is often branded “better regulation” has been a remarkable ideological project driven by the belief that very little should stand in the way of business doing business.’

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France passes new surveillance law in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack

Angelique Chrisafis reports for The Guardian:

Demonstrators hold placards reading "Stop to Mass Surveillance", and "Members of Parliament Protect our Freedom", during a gathering at Invalides, Paris, to protest against the emergency government surveillance lawThe French parliament has overwhelmingly approved sweeping new surveillance powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris in January that killed 17 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris.

The new bill, which allows intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge, sparked protests from rights groups who claimed it would legalise highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

Protesters for civil liberties groups launched a last-ditch campaign against the bill under the banner “24 hours before 1984” in reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel about life under an all-knowing dictatorship. Groups including Amnesty International warned of “extremely large and intrusive powers” without judicial controls.

But despite opposition from green and hard-left MPs, the bill won the overwhelming backing of the majority of MPs from the Socialist and rightwing UMP parties, which said it was necessary to tackle the terrorist risk. The bill was passed in the national assembly by 438 votes to 86, with a handful of no votes from Socialist MPs.’

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The Rape of Berlin

Lucy Ash writes for BBC News:

Treptower Park's Soviet Memorial, in Berlin‘Dusk is falling in Treptower Park on the outskirts of Berlin and I am looking up at a statue dramatically outlined against a lilac sky. Twelve metres (40ft) high, it depicts a Soviet soldier grasping a sword in one hand and a small German girl in the other, and stamping on a broken swastika.

This is the final resting place for 5,000 of the 80,000 Soviet troops who fell in the Battle of Berlin between 16 April and 2 May 1945.

The colossal proportions of the monument reflect the scale of the sacrifice. At the top of a long flight of steps, you can peer into the base of the statue, which is lit up like a religious shrine. An inscription saying that the Soviet people saved European civilisation from fascism catches my eye.

But some call this memorial the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist.

Stalin’s troops assaulted an uncounted number of women as they fought their way to the German capital, though this was rarely mentioned after the war in Germany – West or East – and is a taboo subject in Russia even today.

The Russian media regularly dismiss talk of the rapes as a Western myth, though one of many sources that tells the story of what happened is a diary kept by a young Soviet officer.’

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Inside the Mussolini Museum

Barbie Latza Nadeau writes for The Daily Beast:

BENITO MUSSOLINI, January 31, 1939Every year around Italy’s April 25 liberation day festivities, a group of unapologetic Italians hold a commemoration of their own—they mark the death of Benito Mussolini, who was killed on April 28, 1945, in Giulina di Mezzegra in northern Italy. But it is not to celebrate the event. In what is becoming a trend in Mussolini nostalgia, a growing number of Italians are finding the bright side of a very dark chapter in Italian history.

Commemorating Mussolini is not entirely new in Italy. For years, hundreds of skinheads and self-proclaimed fascists have made pilgrimages to Mussolini’s hometown of Predappio three times a year (at his birth, his death and the October anniversary of his 1922 march on Rome). They visit his old stomping grounds. They flock at the villa where he was born and lay flowers at the mausoleum where he was buried.’

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The Pentagon’s ‘Long War’ Pits NATO Against China, Russia and Iran

Pepe Escobar writes for Sputnik:

Satirized painting of the Statue of Liberty painted on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy, in Tehran, IranWhatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain — alongside Russia — a key US geostrategic target.

As much as US President Barack Obama tried to dismiss it, the Russian sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran is a monumental game-changer. Even with the added gambit of the Iranian military assuring the made in Iran Bavar 373 may be even more efficient than the S-300.

This explains why Jane’s Defense Weekly was already saying years ago that Israel could not penetrate Iranian airspace even if it managed to get there. And after the S-300s Iran inevitably will be offered the even more sophisticated S-400s, which are to be delivered to China as well.

The unspoken secret behind these game-changing proceedings actually terrifies Washington warmongers; it spells out a further frontline of Eurasian integration, in the form of an evolving Eurasian missile shield deployed against Pentagon/NATO ballistic plans.

A precious glimpse of what’s ahead was offered at the Moscow Conference on International Security (MICS) in mid-April.’

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Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe’s problem

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Yemen is short of many things, but weapons is not one of them. Yemenis own between 40 and 60 million guns, according to a report by UN experts published earlier this year. This should be enough for Yemen’s 26 million people, although the experts note that demand for grenades that used to cost $5, handguns ($150) and AK-47s ($150) has increased eightfold. Whatever else happens, the war in Yemen is not going to end because any of the participants are short of weaponry.

Yemeni politics is notoriously complicated and exotic, with shifting alliances in which former enemies embrace and old friends make strenuous efforts to kill each other. But this exoticism does not mean that the war in Yemen, where the Saudis started bombing on 26 March, is irrelevant to the rest of the world. Already the turmoil there is a breeding ground for al-Qaeda type attacks such as that on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The collapse of the country into a permanent state of warfare will send waves of boat-people towards Western Europe or anywhere else they can find refuge. It is absurd for European leaders to pretend that they are doing something about “terrorism” or the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean when they ignore the wars that are the root causes of these events.’

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The austerity delusion: The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it?

Paul Krugman writes for The Guardian:

[…] It is rare, in the history of economic thought, for debates to get resolved this decisively. The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed, to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. Hardly anyone, that is, except the coalition that still rules Britain – and most of the British media.

I don’t know how many Britons realise the extent to which their economic debate has diverged from the rest of the western world – the extent to which the UK seems stuck on obsessions that have been mainly laughed out of the discourse elsewhere. George Osborne and David Cameron boast that their policies saved Britain from a Greek-style crisis of soaring interest rates, apparently oblivious to the fact that interest rates are at historic lows all across the western world. The press seizes on Ed Miliband’s failure to mention the budget deficit in a speech as a huge gaffe, a supposed revelation of irresponsibility; meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is talking, seriously, not about budget deficits but about the “fun deficit” facing America’s children.

Is there some good reason why deficit obsession should still rule in Britain, even as it fades away everywhere else? No. This country is not different. The economics of austerity are the same – and the intellectual case as bankrupt – in Britain as everywhere else.’

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Fear of Vladimir Putin, Islamists and immigration see new iron curtains constructed once again across Europe

Joseph Charlton writes for The Independent:

The “Great Wall of Ukraine” looks nothing like its nickname suggests. It boasts no stone, brick or tampered earth, you can’t walk along it, and there is little chance (one would hope) that parts of it will remain standing 2,000 years from now. It is, however, “a priority”, according to the Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, and its intended purpose is simple: to keep Russia out and would-be secessionists in.

Two years ago, the Ukrainians did not need this “wall”. Or, to put it differently, they did not think they needed it. Times, however, have changed. The wall – simply an idea 12 months ago, a political play by Poroshenko in the run-up to elections – is now being marked out. The first stretch of wire fencing has already gone up in Kharkiv, the northern region not far from neighbouring Luhansk, where skirmishes are frequent. The eventual plan, however, is to create something much larger in scale: a boundary to run the length of Ukraine’s eastern land border with Russia, stretching 1,500 miles, and replete with trenches, watchtowers and armed guards. It will take an estimated three to four years to build and $500m (£330m) to fund – a figure of which bankrupt Ukraine is hoping the EU will help to provide at least a portion in support.

It will not be the only fence to go up this year. All over Eastern Europe – from Ukraine, to Poland, to Bulgaria – Soviet-style “iron curtains” are celebrating a renaissance, with boundaries springing out of the ground in places few would have expected half a decade ago, and neighbours separating themselves in new and surprising ways. Poland this month announced plans to harden its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to the north – with six watchtowers to be put up this year – in a move indicative of worsening relations between Russia and its contiguous EU states. Meanwhile, further south, in Bulgaria, a fence topped with razor wire is being erected to stretch the length of the southern border with Turkey. The goal, according to the administration in Sofia: to stop the flow of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, and curb the risk of receiving militants from Syria and Iraq.’

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The Case for US-Russian Parity: Interview with Stephen Cohen

Editor’s Note: Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War‘. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.

US used German spooks to snoop on EU defence industry

John Leyden reports for The Register:

The NSA UnchainedGermany’s BND spy agency spied on European politicians and enterprises at the behest of the NSA for over a decade.

Der Spiegel reports (in German) that for years the NSA sent its counterparts at the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst – Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service) thousands of so-called selectors – IP addresses, emails, and mobile phone numbers – it wanted targeted for online surveillance.

German cyberspies fed this data into their own surveillance systems. The reports generated were evaluated at BND headquarters before intelligence was passed back to the NSA.

In practical terms, it seems that the BND have been tapping the Internet Exchange Point DE-CIX in Frankfurt, since at least 2009.

Results from the bulk tap of this Internet exchange were then passed over, in part at least, to the Americans as part of a collaborative agreement involving intel agencies.

The selectors included referred to European politicians and European aerospace and defence firms, including the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and Eurocopter.’

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NATO role in 2011 Gadhafi ouster may have given rise to Islamic State presence in Libya

John Vandiver and Slobodan Lekic reports for Stars & Stripes:

As NATO announced the end of its seven-month bombing campaign in Libya that helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the top military officials expressed their pride in the alliance’s achievement.

“A successful chapter in NATO’s history is coming to an end,” Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Libya’s new leaders in Tripoli in October 2011, just days after rebels had caught and murdered a fleeing Gadhafi. Rasmussen said he expected a new Libya to arise, “based on freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and reconciliation.”

Top U.S. officials also chimed in.

“We came, we saw, he died,” a triumphant then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared to a television reporter.

Four years after NATO’s “successful chapter,” Libya is in chaos, a failed state with two rival but powerless governments and dozens of warlords and militia groups fighting it out in the streets of its cities. The once-thriving oil-based economy — now a waypoint for tens of thousands of refugees from Africa and the Middle East fleeing to Europe — could be the radical Islamic State group’s next target.’

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Europe’s security challenges should mean more defense spending, says Pentagon chief

David Alexander reports for Reuters:

Europe should be spending more on its military given the security challenges facing the region, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday, adding that falling investment had eroded Europe’s ability to be a capable U.S. ally.

“They’re not doing enough. They are spending a smaller share of their GDP than they have in the past, (than) we do now and (than) many, like Russia, are spending. It’s too low,” Carter told a group of university students training as military officers.

The Pentagon chief made the remarks after being asked by one student what the United States could do to encourage Europe to be more financially committed to its own defense.

Low European military spending has long been a sore point for the United States. U.S. presidents and defense secretaries regularly urge the allies to stop the slide in spending.’

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Critics Charge That Migration Crisis Is ‘A Creation of the West’

Deirdre Fulton reports for Common Dreams:

While the European Union grapples with how to address the worsening Mediterranean migrant crisis, some critics are laying blame for the unfolding tragedy on the U.S. and NATO, whose 2011 military intervention severely destabilized Libya, the North African country that has been described as “Ground Zero in the migrant crisis.”

As European leaders gathered Thursday for an emergency summit, and funerals were held for refugees who drowned in last weekend’s capsizing disaster, many have noted that to comprehensively address the migration crisis countries must tackle root causes—namely poverty, political instability, and civil war, as well as European xenophobia.

Humanitarian and human rights groups charge that the European Union’s “minimalist” plan barely does even that.

But others are pointing out that those root causes did not emerge in a vacuum, and they are calling on Western powers to take some responsibility for creating the crisis.’

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EU is turning its back on drowning children: Interview with Gemma Parkin from Save the Children

‘Gemma Parkin from Save the Children talks to Afshin about the ‘appalling’ decision of the EU to stop search and rescue missions for migrants trying to make it to European shores – leaving men, women and children to drown.’ (Going Underground)

TTIP: Is democracy threatened if companies can sue countries?

Michael Robinson writes for BBC News:

Protesters in London demonstrating against TTIPThose protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed new trade treaty between the European Union and the United States, are part of a growing international opposition to pacts that allow multinational companies to sue governments whose policies damage their interests.

Opponents claim this right, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), poses a threat to democracy.

But what is ISDS and why does it provoke such controversy?’

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Regulatory cooperation in TTIP: united in deregulation

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

‘Negotiations between the EU and the US to conclude a transatlantic trade and investment treaty (TTIP) continue to generate controversy. Many are concerned about the anti-democratic nature of private arbitration tribunals that would enable investors to sue states in private courts, but another aspect of the talks is just as threatening to the public interest: “regulatory cooperation”.

This project, which is unprecedented in the history of international trade, means the establishment of permanent institutional arrangements for communication and negotiation between European and American technocrats.

The objective is to continue the work of harmonization of regulatory frameworks between the EU and the US once the TTIP negotiations are done. In this way, roadblocks that were not resolved during the TTIP talks can be resolved while also ensuring that no new regulation is likely to become a “barrier to trade.”

The fundamental problem with this approach is that it considers regulations simply in terms of whether they impact or restrict transatlantic trade, whereas standards and regulations are the result of political and societal debates over much wider concerns. Therefore, far from being a simple technical discussion as claimed by the Commission, the risk is that regulatory cooperation talks follow the same logic as the arbitration courts: a bad law for trade is necessarily a bad law!

Regulatory cooperation could thus become the graveyard for public interest regulations.’

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TTIP leak: EU proposal undermines democratic values

Lora Verheecke reports for Corporate Observatory Europe:

According to a leaked European Commission proposal in the ongoing EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, EU member state legislative initiatives will have to be vetted for potential impacts on private business interests.

The proposal forms part of a wider plan for so-called “regulatory cooperation”. Civil society groups have already denounced earlier iterations of this plan as being a tool to stop or roll back regulation intended to protect the public interest. The new elements in the leaked proposal expand the problem, according to civil society organisations.

Civil society groups have condemned the “regulatory exchange” plan as an affront to parliamentary democracy. “This is an insult to citizens, elected politicians and democracy itself”, says Max Bank of Lobby Control.

The “regulatory exchange” proposal will force laws drafted by democratically-elected politicians through an extensive screening process. This process will occur throughout the 78 States, not just in Brussels and Washington DC. Laws will be evaluated on whether or not they are compatible with the economic interests of major companies. Responsibility for this screening will lie with the ‘Regulatory cooperation body, a permanent, undemocratic, and unaccountable conclave of European and American technocrats.’

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Pope Francis was wrong, Namibia was the 20th century’s first genocide

David Olusoga writes for The Guardian:

[…] The pope’s description of the Armenian massacre as “the first genocide of the 20th century” was simply incorrect. That grim distinction belongs to the genocide that imperial Germany unleashed a decade earlier against the Herero and Nama, two ethnic groups who lived in the former colony of South West Africa, modern Namibia.

The Namibian genocide, 1904-1909, was not only the first of the 20th century; in so many ways, it also seemed to prefigure the later horrors of that troubled century. The systematic extermination of around 80% of the Herero people and 50% of the Nama was the work both of German soldiers and colonial administrators; banal, desk-bound killers. The most reliable figures estimate 90,000 people were killed.’

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Welcome to Liberland: Europe’s tiny new country where taxes are optional

SEE ALSO: Inside The Strange And Wonderful World Of Micronations

Jamie Campbell reports for The Independent:

Liberland.JPGA politician from the Czech Republic is claiming to be the President of a brand new “independent sovereign state” in the Balkans.

Vit Jedlicka, a member of the Conservative Party of Free Citizens, is the self-appointed president of “Liberland,” a 7sq km “country” (only the Vatican and Monaco are smaller) where taxes are optional and there is no military.

It is situated on the banks of the Danube between Serbia and Croatia in an unclaimed no-man’s land, or terra nullius territory, meaning that neither country has ever held full sovereignty over the area.’

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Game of Drones: Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War

Jeremy Scahill reports for The Intercept:

Transatlantic cables connect U.S. drone pilots half a world away. (Illustration: Josh Begley)A top-secret U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Intercept confirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program. Ramstein is the site of a satellite relay station that enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries. The top-secret slide deck, dated July 2012, provides the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.

Amid fierce European criticism of America’s targeted killing program, U.S. and German government officials have long downplayed Ramstein’s role in lethal U.S. drone operations and have issued carefully phrased evasions when confronted with direct questions about the base. But the slides show that the facilities at Ramstein perform an essential function in lethal drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa.

The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government’s drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution. According to the source, Ramstein’s importance to the U.S. drone war is difficult to overstate. “Ramstein carries the signal to tell the drone what to do and it returns the display of what the drone sees. Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now,” the source said.’

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Hungary: Jobbik’s first direct election win bodes ill for Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party

The Economist writes:

This year is not going well for Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister. After falling out with a key oligarch and ally, Mr Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party has lost two by-elections. The loss of Veszprem in February to a left-winger cost Fidesz its two-thirds majority in parliament.

But its defeat in Tapolca on April 12th has even bigger implications. Lajos Rig took the seat for Jobbik, an extreme-right party, with 35.3% of the vote to Fidesz’s 34.4 %. The left-wing candidate trailed with 26.3%.

Modern, decentralised campaign tactics helped Jobbik to win. Whereas Fidesz ran an old-fashioned air war, parachuting in party leaders, including Mr Orban, only for brief visits, Jobbik ran a well co-ordinated ground war, flooding the constituency with MPs and activists, targeting villages and focusing on local concerns such as Tapolca’s hospital.’

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Neocons, R2Pers and Hypocrisy

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Sometimes I’m challenged over my linking belligerent neoconservatives with “liberal interventionists” who justify U.S. military invasions under the “humanitarian” banner of “responsibility to protect” – or R2P – meaning to intervene in war-torn countries to stop the killing of civilians, like the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda.

And, most people would agree that there are extraordinary situations in which the timely arrival of an external military force might prevent genocide or other atrocities, which was one of the intended functions of the United Nations. But my overall impression of R2Pers is that many are careerist hypocrites who voice selective outrage that provides cover for the U.S. and its allies to do pretty much whatever they wish.

Though one can’t generalize about an entire group – since some R2Pers act much more consistently than others – many of the most prominent ones operate opportunistically, depending how the dominant narrative is going and where the power interests lie.’

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