Posts Tagged ‘Hungary.’

U.N. pact on migration is “already dead”

December 9, 2018

The global U.N. pact on migration is “dead even before it’s been signed,” Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon told a gathering at the Flemish parliament in Brussels on Saturday.

Bannon spoke at the invitation of Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang, an anti-immigration party that has come out against the U.N. Global Compact on Migration set to be signed by national leaders in Marrakesh next week. The goal of the meeting, according to Vlaams Belang leader Tom Van Grieken, was to put the “suicidal” migration pact “where it belongs: in the trash.”

Bannon praised leaders like Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who also spoke at the event, for rejecting the pact.

EU-Kommissionspräsident Jean-Claude Juncker (picture alliance/dpa/AP/V. Mayo)

Jean-Claude Juncker

“They call us racists no matter what we do,” Bannon said, according to Belgian media. “But it’s not up to workers in Hungary, France and the U.S. to resolve African problems.”

With migration still a combustible issue across the Continent, three years after the 2015 refugee crisis, far-right parties have seized on the pact ahead of next year’s European Parliament election, triggering infighting in ruling parties and governments, including in Belgium.

The right-wing New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), a member of Charles Michel’s ruling coalition, and the Vlaams Belang have refused to support the U.N. migration deal. N-VA leader Bart de Wever reiterated Saturday he did not want the government to fall, but said his party would not change its mind and endorse the U.N. pact.

Ministers are expected to meet Saturday evening to try to resolve the stand-off, Belgian media reported. A failure to resolve the dispute could cause Michel’s government, which relies on the support of the N-VA, to collapse.

Bannon has set his sights on gathering Europe’s populist parties — including Le Pen’s National Rally and the Flemish nationalists — into a pan-European movement ahead of next year’s European election.

“For the first time, it’s possible to possible to imagine an alternative to the pro-Europeans and replacing staggering leaders like Jean-Claude Juncker,” Le Pen told MPs Saturday.

See also:

Wall Street Journal: U.N. Pact on Migration Sows Dissent


Soros-founded university says ‘forced out of Budapest’

December 3, 2018

Hungary’s Central European University announced Monday it had been “forced” to move its most prestigious programmes to Vienna after a long and bitter legal battle with Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government.

“CEU has been forced out,” Michael Ignatieff, rector of the university founded by US-Hungarian billionaire George Soros, said in a statement. “This is unprecedented. A US institution has been driven out of a country that is a NATO ally.”

The entrance to the Central European University (CEU) stands in Budapest.  Photographer: Atila Kissendeck/AFP via Getty Images

The university said it would begin teaching all US-accredited programmes in a new site in Vienna starting in September 2019.

However, CEU will keep its Budapest campus and those students who have enrolled there will be able to complete their studies.

George Soros

Attracting students from over 100 countries and mainly offering US-accredited masters programmes, CEU has long been regarded by the nationalist Orban as a hostile bastion of liberalism.

Founded by the Hungarian-born Soros in 1991 and chartered in the US state of New York, the CEU says it was the target of a law passed April 2017 that placed tough requirements on foreign universities.

The bill’s adoption, seen by critics as a blow against academic freedom, was cited in a recent scathing EU report on Hungary that prompted the European Parliament to launch unprecedented so-called “Article 7” legal action against Budapest in September.

CEU says it has since complied with the law by opening a facility in New York State that US regulators have confirmed as hosting educational activities.

But a government spokesperson has called the American site “a Potemkin campus” that fails to satisfy the new rules and has refused to sign an agreement with the USA authorities that would let CEU continue to operate.


Poland’s fight with Brussels backfires

November 27, 2018

Image result for Jaroslaw Kaczynski,photos

Warsaw has pulled back from plans to reshape the supreme court after pressure from the EU

By James Shotter in Warsaw 3 HOURS AGO Print this page6

As Poland was rushing to complete a controversial overhaul of its judiciary earlier this year, Jaroslaw Gowin, the deputy prime minister, issued the EU a blunt challenge. If the bloc’s top court tried to thwart Poland’s changes, he warned, it would be “the first step towards the auto-destruction of the EU”.

In the end it was the Polish government that blinked. Following an order from the European Court of Justice, deputies from the ruling Law and Justice party, headed by conservative ideologue Jaroslaw Kaczynski, last week pushed through a bill allowing two dozen supreme court judges to return to work after they had been forced into early retirement this year.

Even by the topsy-turvy standards of Polish politics, it was a remarkable turn of events.

Rushed through the lower house of parliament in just a day, the bill undid one of the most high-profile elements of a judicial reform that sparked protests in Poland, and concern in Brussels that Poland is drifting away from its democratic moorings. Once signed into law, the reversal will give the EU, which is fighting a rearguard action against creeping illiberalism from Budapest to Bucharest, a rare, if partial, success in its battle to enforce its fundamental values.

“It’s a very symbolic climbdown,” says Michal Szuldrzynski, a political commentator at Rzeczpospolita, one of Poland’s main newspapers. “Law and Justice invested an enormous amount of its political credibility in this reform. For a year and a half, they were fighting, struggling, doing everything to succeed in the reform of the supreme court.

Kaczynski has said many times that it is the last bastion of former communists in Poland. And now they have decided to back down.” The plans to shake up the Polish judiciary have become one of the set-piece battles of modern European politics.

They bring to a head two very politically different visions, pitting Law and Justice’s view that electoral victory gives it a mandate for a radical re-shaping of the Polish state against Brussels’s faith in the separation of powers. Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban in Warsaw.

They have both been highly critical of the EU In an era of growing political populism, the EU has often found itself under pressure — whether dealing with Viktor Orban’s Hungary, Italy’s new government or the challenge from Brexit.

But Law and Justice’s partial climbdown shows that, despite the bloc’s troubles, the European idea still has the capacity to shape political debate within its member states.

The roots of the supreme court reversal lie in Poland’s political cycle. Although Law and Justice remains comfortably the most popular party, with elections looming next year, the country’s pro-EU opposition has begun to gain traction with an argument that mobilises many Poles: the idea that Law and Justice could lead the central European country — long seen as one of the great success stories of the EU’s 2004 eastern expansion — out of the bloc.

According to Donald Tusk, Poland’s former prime minister and Mr Kaczynski’s political nemesis, one of the lessons of Brexit is that countries can leave partly by accident.

“For me it doesn’t matter whether Jaroslaw Kaczynski is planning an exit from the EU, or only initiates certain processes that result in this. I have experience with [UK] prime minister [David] Cameron,” he said earlier this month. “He came up with the idea of a referendum and then did everything to keep Britain in the EU, but [in the end] he led [the UK] out.”

The bitter feud between Brussels and Warsaw over Law and Justice‘s judicial reform plays into this narrative. The ruling party insists that its changes are necessary to overhaul an inefficient and dysfunctional system that has not been sufficiently purged since Poland returned to democracy.

A Law and Justice election rally in Krakow in October. The party did well in the countryside but badly in the cities in the local elections But officials in Brussels deem them a calculated assault on judicial independence, and the European Commission has launched an array of initiatives to stop them.

One was the so-called Article 7 procedure, a political process that can lead to a member state being stripped of its voting rights if it is found to breach the bloc’s core values. It has also challenged Poland’s reforms at the European Court of Justice. Law and Justice officials dismiss the idea that they want to take Poland out of the bloc as nonsense.

“It’s a lie, a lie, and again a lie,” Mr Kaczynski said last month. More than 70 per cent of Poles support EU membership. For many Poles, joining the bloc was, along with Nato accession, a key step towards anchoring the country in the west after four decades behind the Iron Curtain.

But as the fight between Warsaw and Brussels has intensified, so have the barbs directed at the EU by senior Polish officials. Mr Gowin said Warsaw would ignore adverse ECJ rulings on its judicial reform. President Andrzej Duda branded the bloc “an imaginary community” from which Poland gains little.

Last month, Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister, asked Poland’s constitutional tribunal to rule whether EU law was superior to Polish law. Each time, the opposition pounced, accusing Law and Justice of inching the country towards “Polexit”. “How the EU fight plays out in Polish public opinion really depends on how it’s framed.

If it is framed as Poland standing up for its interests in the EU — particularly on something like enforced migration quotas where Poles are uncomfortable with what the EU is doing — then that is a winner for Law and Justice,” says Aleks Szczerbiak, professor of politics at the UK’s University of Sussex.

“But if it is framed in terms of whether Poland is a member of the EU or not, or if there is a direct threat to the material benefits that Poland gets from the EU, that’s the moment at which it becomes politically very dangerous for them.” Local elections last month bore this out. Law and Justice won overall, and made gains in the countryside.

But it was trounced in Poland’s big cities, and even some smaller towns, as centrist voters worried by the stand-off with Brussels turned out in huge numbers for the opposition. Government officials say Mr Ziobro’s decision to question the supremacy of European over Polish law just days before the vote was particularly unhelpful.

“If it hadn’t been for [this], the result would not just have been better for Law and Justice, it would have been worse for the opposition. This really mobilised their voters,” says one official. With both European elections — traditionally a difficult battleground for Law and Justice — and Polish parliamentary polls due next year, party officials are keen to kill the Polexit narrative before it can damage their hopes of a second term.

“The conflict over the judiciary is not helpful, but if you put it in the context of Polexit, then it’s a problem, and it was a problem in the local elections. We understand that,” says one senior Law and Justice official. The incentive for the government to defuse the fight with the EU has been heightened by the eruption of a scandal over alleged bribery at Poland’s financial regulator, which has left Law and Justice fighting on yet another front, says Daniel Tilles, assistant professor at the Pedagogical University in Krakow.

“This scandal has the potential to [damage] Law and Justice’s image, perhaps even more than the fight with the EU, because it could undermine their image of cleaning up corruption at Polish institutions.” Whether Law and Justice’s U-turn on the supreme court is enough to deprive the opposition of its Polexit line of attack depends on how the European Commission reacts.

Its vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis described the volte-face as a “positive opening”. But EU officials say that while the move is a more substantial concession that anything Law and Justice has offered so far, it is not, on its own, enough to end the stand-off. Although the fight over the supreme court has become the most high-profile part of the feud between Warsaw and Brussels, Law and Justice’s judicial changes are far broader.

The government has passed laws giving politicians sweeping powers over Poland’s lower courts, the constitutional tribunal, and also the National Judicial Council, the body that appoints judges. EU officials say this means the decision to let supreme court judges return will merely postpone the politicisation of Poland’s top court.

“It’s a foregone conclusion that the composition of the supreme court will be very much in line with the government, because they can appoint judges and so with time they will dominate the supreme court,” says one European official. “It’s not a solution to the whole problem.”

Law and Justice officials say abandoning the shake-up of the judiciary is not an option. But though some hardliners oppose further compromises, others think progress should be possible. “The [promise to reform the judiciary] was one reason we won in 2015. It cannot be completely withdrawn . . . It is very important for Jaroslaw Kaczynski. It’s one of the main things he wanted to be in power to do,” says the senior Law and Justice official. “[But] time is on our side . . . We can be very pragmatic on this. We have many possible scenarios.”

How the battle plays out will be closely watched across the EU, with concerns over breaches of the rule of law multiplying. In September, the European Parliament voted to launch an Article 7 procedure against Hungary over its crackdown on civil society. This month, the commission accused Romania of undermining the fight against corruption through a series of changes to its legal system.

In its stand-off with Poland, the European Commission’s initial weapon of choice was the Article 7 procedure.

But as the fight has dragged on, it has become clear that this approach has reached stalemate. Imposing sanctions on Poland would require unanimity among other member states, and Hungary, Warsaw’s close ally, has insisted it would use its veto.

Some observers say that the fact that the EU has now managed to extract concessions from Poland by using the ECJ could prompt officials to re-use this approach in future. Recommended Global Insight Miles Johnson Italy’s populists learn virtue of patience in EU budget row “For sure it’s a new opening.

The EU, which could have been perceived as weak, now seems stronger. This could be a turning point in the whole rule of law crisis,” says Marcin Matczak, a lawyer and professor at the University of Warsaw, who has been a vocal opponent of Law and Justice’s reforms.

“We are now thinking about putting some pressure on the European Commission to start another infringement procedure concerning the National Judicial Council [the body which appoints Polish judges] . . . because we think this will be much more effective.” Others are more sceptical. “I think the commission has realised that Article 7 isn’t very useful as an instrument of pressure, and that the Court of Justice is probably more activist than many of us thought,” says Agata Gostynska-Jakubowska, from the Centre for European Reform in Brussels.

“But the jury is still out on whether the commission will now be keener to use the ECJ to address democratic backsliding in other member states.” For the moment, however, after a year during which it seemed that Law and Justice would not make any substantial amendments to its judicial changes, opponents of the Polish reforms see a glimmer of light. “We still have a chance. We are still in a process,” says Mr Matczak.

“It’s not the end of the crisis. We can still win.”


EU funds have transformed Poland

Despite the political tensions between Warsaw and Brussels, the EU remains overwhelmingly popular among Poles.

A survey published by the newspaper Rzeczpospolita on Monday found that 84 per cent of Poles wanted their country to stay in the union, while only 8 per cent wanted to leave.

After a 20th century during which the country endured war, destruction, and subjugation, for many Poles accession to the EU offered both security, and the chance of a better quality of life. EU membership has allowed Poles to travel, live and work around the continent, and EU funds — Poland received more than €100bn in the bloc’s last budget period — have helped transform the country’s infrastructure.

A statue of King Sigismund in Warsaw is dressed up with a T-shirt with the slogan Constitution

“The countryside started to change after we joined the EU. I’ll even say that it just became colourful,” says Hanna Reszeter, from Jezierzyce, a small farming village in north-west Poland. “There was greyness here before — the buildings, everything. But when we joined the EU, I don’t know, maybe it was that there were more materials, maybe it was the access to [the EU], more started going on.” Some aspects of the EU — such as the bloc’s attempts to share around the task of accommodating migrants — have little support in Poland.

But Jacek Kucharczyk, head of the Institute of Public Affairs, a Polish think-tank, says that such concerns are not enough to dent overall support for the EU. “There is a sense of belonging to a community to which we want to belong, even though many people have doubts about aspects of the community. It’s still way more attractive than the world we see outside the EU,” he says. “Basically people see EU membership as a success . . . It is largely a continuation of this feeling that joining the EU is a fulfilment of Poland’s desire to be part of the west.”

Additional reporting by Evon Huber

Money and Muscle Pave China’s Way to Global Power

November 27, 2018

Beijing is leveraging its commercial and military might to redraw the terms of trade, diplomacy and security, challenging the liberal democratic order.

Under a merciless sun, a dozen Chinese construction workers survey an empty expanse of desert, preparing to transform it into the heart of a new Egyptian capital.

The workers are employed by China’s largest construction conglomerate through a $3 billion contract from an Egyptian company, with financing from Chinese banks. They are erecting a thicket of 21 skyscrapers, one as tall as the Empire State Building.

Image result for xi jinping, waving, photos

The presence of Chinese labor and largess on the sands of Egypt is a testament to China’s global aspirations. After centuries of weakness and isolation, China is reclaiming what its leaders regard as its natural destiny — supremacy in Asia, and respect around the planet. Through the ventures in Egypt and elsewhere, China is exploiting its formidable economic clout to expand its geopolitical influence, directing investment to woo governments that control vital assets.

A traditional ally of the United States, Egypt controls the Suez Canal, a vital shipping passage where a threat to access could impede China’s movement around the globe. In constructing a central piece of the futuristic capital, China is ingratiating itself with the canal’s ultimate gatekeeper, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, while rendering his grandest visions dependent on friendly relations with Beijing.

China’s reach for commercial expansion along with diplomatic influence guides an array of Chinese undertakings, from rail networks and highways taking shape across Africa and Latin America to ports and power stations being constructed in Eastern Europe and South Asia. In Southeast Asia, Chinese entrepreneurs are engineering a crop of web companies just as China projects growing military power in the South China Sea.

Little more than a decade ago, China’s forays beyond its borders were mainly about bringing home energy, minerals and other resources, often from countries forsaken by the West as pariah states like Iran, Sudan and Myanmar. In foreign policy, China pursued a sole obsession — peeling off diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory. Even as China skirmished with neighbors over contested islands, it accepted the dominance of the United States Navy.

Those days are over.

Under the muscular leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has cast off previous restraints, rejecting deference to an American-dominated global order as an impediment to national revival. In matters of commerce and national security, China is competing with the United States, even in traditional American spheres of influence.

From a Chinese perspective, this reordering is merely an overdue reversion to historical reality as Beijing demands consideration commensurate with its stature.

In the telling of the ruling Communist Party, China’s modern history is the story of Chinese mastery degraded by colonial depravity. China is the land that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing, amassing stupendous wealth while Europe was still backward. Then came centuries of humiliation — Britain’s profiting from forcing opium on the populace, Japanese brutality, demeaning lectures about human rights from hypocritical Americans. Now, China is intent on securing its own fate.

“China wants to be a great power in the world,” says Paul Heer, a former chief national intelligence officer in East Asia for the United States, who now teaches at George Washington University. “They think the rest of the world owes them recognition, and a return to what the Chinese see as their rightful place.”

Nowhere are China’s designs clearer than in Asia. China has overtaken the United States as the leading trading partner with Asian nations while pushing back against American naval primacy in the South China Sea. China is disrupting American alliances in the region, from Japan to Singapore to Australia.

Beyond its backyard, China’s ambitions are boundless. It celebrates its Belt and Road Initiative, a vast collection of infrastructure projects around the world, as the means of recreating the Silk Road, the trails navigated in ancient times by merchants carrying goods between Asia and Europe.

“Xi Jinping is leading a China that has influences in all corners of the globe,” says Zhang Baohui, a professor of international relations at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. “The 2008 financial crisis in the West was the turning point for China. Beijing started to embrace a triumphal mind-set, and pursued global leadership with new confidence on the back of the West’s perceived flaws.”

China’s assertive role in world affairs is grounded in its domestic needs. It is at once spreading into new markets, generating fresh demand for its factory wares just as growth slows at home. It is projecting military strength and influence when the legitimacy of the Communist Party rests on bolstering economic fortunes and international esteem.

Among its neighbors, China’s rise provokes fears that an unwanted piece of history is being resurrected — the old tribute system that cemented China’s status as the Middle Kingdom. For centuries, other nations bowed in recognition of China’s imperial might, bestowing gifts on the emperor and accepting vassal status to secure trade and peace.

Beijing now confronts accusations that it is directing investments to ensnare partners in debt traps as a means of seizing their assets. Last year, Sri Lanka handed control of a port to a Chinese venture after failing to pay back Chinese loans. Malaysia recently canceled a pair of projects involving Chinese financing. Faced with pushback abroad and concerns about mounting debts at home, China is reassessing the breadth and cost of its global ventures, although the scope remains vast.

For the Western powers whose order has prevailed since the end of World War II, China poses a foundational challenge. The United States and its victorious allies erected institutions that were — at least rhetorically — designed to keep the peace by promoting trade and fair competition. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have dispensed aid with conditions, though frequently drawing accusations that they have failed to comply with their standards on protecting human rights and the rule of law.

China’s investments come with no such strictures. China bankrolls autocrats who control geopolitically valuable real estate. China demands only that its companies gain a piece of the action while recipients eschew criticizing Beijing.

China’s challenge to the Western-dominated order is amplified by the reality that its primary architect, the United States, is now led by an avowed nationalist. As President Trump wages a trade war and derides international cooperation, he has generated doubts about the perseverance of the liberal democratic philosophy the United States has long championed.

Mr. Xi has sought to fill the vacuum. He has cast himself as the leader of the rules-based international trading system, even as China faces accusations of stealing intellectual property, subsidizing state-owned companies and dumping products on world markets at unfairly low prices.

“What’s happening in the United States gives China this golden opportunity to portray itself as the defender of the international order,” says Jessica Chen Weiss, a China expert at Cornell University.

Threatening Competition and Cohesion

If the new Silk Road is in part about moving goods from Chinese factories to customers in the rest of the world, the trail seems certain to pass through Central and Eastern Europe.

Already, Chinese investment has turned the Greek port of Piraeus into the busiest shipping hub on the Mediterranean, a gateway to the rest of the European Union, with its 500 million consumers. China has promised to help finance the construction of a high-speed rail link from the Serbian capital, Belgrade, to the Hungarian capital, Budapest. It has also pledged to turn the region into a transportation corridor laced with highways, airports, rail, ports and power stations.

This reality frames the proceedings of the “16-plus-1” group, an economic bloc that China has forged with 16 Central and Eastern European nations. Its latest summit meeting convenes on a drizzly day in July in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. Officials from the 16 governments — among them the newest, least-affluent members of the European Union — pose for photos with the delegation from China, the one nation wealthy and ambitious enough to finance their visions.

Leaders in the rest of the European Union construe the group as a stealth assault on the rules and cohesion of their bloc. In offering financing for infrastructure projects, China has positioned itself as an alternative to European Union development funds.

Europe’s money comes with rules protecting labor and the environment, while requiring that projects be awarded to companies on the basis of competitive bidding to ensure fair competition. China tends to distribute its funds with far simpler demands: Chinese companies must gain work, free of competition, while Beijing secures an international ally.

European Union officials are especially worried that Chinese money could weaken the pressure Europe is applying on members that have been breaching democratic norms. Europe has threatened to withhold development funds from Poland and Hungary as punishment for their turns toward authoritarianism. Both have packed courts with government-friendly judges and menaced the press.

“It’s a mutually beneficial cooperation based on mutual trust without any kind of attempts to interfere into domestic issues,” Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, says in an interview before the summit meeting in Sofia.

Bulgaria has high hopes for Chinese investment on highway projects linking its ports. The Bulgarian government has broken with other European Union members in declining to join international statements condemning China’s human rights record. As Bulgarian officials prepare at the gathering to meet China’s premier, Li Keqiang, they plan to stick to business.

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Germany: Angela Merkel’s Ruling Christian Democrats In Dispute Over Migrants, Asylum Policy

November 19, 2018

Migrants, Asylum Policy — Leading Christian Democrats are warning their colleagues not to call Germany’s participation in the UN’s Global Compact for Migration into question. Jens Spahn and other CDU members have gone rogue on asylum policy.

Refugees and migrants try to warm themselves through fires in the makeshift camp in Idomeni

Members of Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) are hitting back at Health Minister Jens Spahn’s suggestion that Germany should not sign on to the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration after all. Norbert Röttgen, who heads the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, said the agreement, which is not legally binding, would be an important step by the international community in controlling migration and was therefore in Germany’s best interest.

“To put off signing the migration pact would be a lack of leadership that Germany cannot permit,” Röttgen told daily Bild for an article published on Monday.

Spahn, who hopes to take the reins of the CDU when Merkel relinquishes them at the end of the year, has called for further debate on the pact when the party convenes to choose its next boss in December. Other members of the CDU have also criticized Germany’s participation in the pact, which was set for ratification in December and in part “intends to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration,” according to the UN.

The pact calls for nations to take voluntary measures to help improve the conditions in migrants’ countries of origin that are frequently cited as the primary motivators of emigration, as well as to help destination countries better assimilate migrants and provide them with sustainable conditions. Its 23 objectives, in the UN’s words, strive “to create conducive conditions that enable all migrants to enrich our societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitate their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels.”

Deutschlandtrend: Leader CDU

‘The populist hysteria’

Perhaps inspiring the rogue members of Merkel’s coalition of the CDU, Social Democrats and Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), three of Germany’s neighbors — Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria — and nearby Hungary, have already pulled out of the pact. But now the conflict is coming from within her party, representing yet another dispute among the nominally allied factions that have sought to steer Germany through a series of crises over the past five years.

“Striving for the right way in the party is always smart,” Thomas Strobl, the CDU’s second-in-command, told Bild. “With that in mind, it was clearly a mistake that the migration pact was not openly and positively advocated for early on.”

Strobl said that “we should not allow ourselves to be driven mad by the populist hysteria of the right.” He referenced the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has played on xenophobia for political gain, in adding that he was “absolutely opposed to the idea that, in fear of the misleading AfD campaign, we would execute even a partial withdrawal” from the agreement.

Those words may not be enough to convince the further-right elements of the uneasy alliance that currently governs Germany. As the CSU Bundestag deputy Peter Ramsauer, who opposes the pact, told daily Die Welt for an article published in Monday’s edition, “throughout the entire document, there’s a stance that sees migration as something normal and even desirable.”

mkg/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)


Have European Leaders Lost The Will To Defend Western Civilization?

November 16, 2018

Image result for emmanuel macron, world war I centennial, photos, podium

The Western world would have succumbed over 1,000 years ago had its leaders and citizens not made a brave stand in the face of foreign invasion.

Today, no less dangerous invaders than those from the past have succeeded where their forebears could not, and without the force of arms.

The history of Western civilization has been interspersed with episodes of military conflict on such a monumental scale that any defeat would have reversed the course of history forever.

Consider the Battle of Tours. Beginning in 711 AD, a Muslim army under the Umayyad caliphate conquered a large swath of what is known today as Spain and Portugal, or the Iberian Peninsula. The tide began to recede only in 732 when the Germanic statesman and military leader, Charles Martel, with a force of some 20,000 men, emerged victorious against Muslim forces on a battlefield in southwestern France in what is known as the Battle of Tours.

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson emphasized the importance of the conflict when he wrote that“most of the 18th and 19th century historians, like [Edward] Gibbon, saw (Tours), as a landmark battle that marked the high tide of the Muslim advance into Europe.”

Martel’s victory represented the first chapter in a protracted effort – known as the Reconquista – a 780-year campaign on the part of the Christian kingdoms to uproot the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. And it wasn’t until 1492, the year Columbus set sail to discover the New World, that the peninsula was fully controlled by Christian rulers.

It makes for a compelling thought experiment to consider how a powerful historic figure, like Charles Martel, one of the founding figures of the European Middle Ages, would be received by today’s mainstream media, which has a acquired a very particular way of reporting on those modern European leaders – like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – who are simply motivated by the desire to strengthen Europe’s borders from illegal aliens. For an answer, one need only consider the breathtakingly biased BBC interview where Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó was told that his government was guided by “xenophobia” in its decision to prevent illegal migrants from entering the country.

Judging by its blood-stained history, however, Hungary has good reason for being concerned about foreign invasion. That’s because the threat of foreign invasion against the European continent did not end in 1492. In fact, overlapping the defeat of the Muslim invaders in Western Europe, a concomitant development was occurring in Eastern Europe with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, which defeated the Byzantine Empire in 1453.

By 1541, the Ottoman Turks had conquered Hungary and at this time were on their way to creating one of the largest empires of all time. After declaring Hungary a vassal state, the Ottoman army marched up the Danube towards the famed ‘Gates of Vienna.’ It was here the Ottomans would meet their match, thanks to the timely intervention of King John Sobieski of Poland.

Upon reaching Vienna on September 12, 1683, with the Ottoman army about to breach the city walls, Sobieski ordered his roughly 75,000 troops to charge at the very heart of the enemy force, which numbered some 350,000. Sobieski’s plan worked and he successfully routed the Ottomans, a momentous event that began the liberation of Eastern Europe from the Turkish yoke.

To understand the significance of the victory, the Pope hailed Sobieski as the “Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization.”

Once again, we must ask: how would the Western media today treat such a historic figure, who led Europe and Western civilization to ultimate triumph against a foreign invader? After all, Sobieski didn’t merely construct a barbed-wire fence against an invading horde as Hungary’s Orban did, and too much outcry and even retribution from his European peers. Sobieski went so far as to put an intruder to the sword.

In a letter to his wife, Queen Marie-Louise, Sobieski described the sheer mayhem and bloodshed that accompanied the battle:

“Our Lord and God, Blessed of all ages, has brought unheard victory and glory to our nation. All the guns, the whole camp, untold spoils have fallen into our hands…They left behind a mass of innocent Austrian people, particularly women; but they butchered as many as they could…”

Now of course some will argue that we are talking about apples and oranges here. A marauding army simply cannot be compared to an influx of desperate migrants looking to better their lot in life.However, I would argue that the two groups, while employing radically different methods, nonetheless produce roughly the same results: both groups have a massive impact upon the native population in terms of problems with assimilation, as well as the expenses involved in playing ‘host’ to people from radically different cultures, religions and backgrounds.Most importantly, however, is that in both cases the native population suffers the risk of being completely displaced by the influx of foreigners, especially if the latter is more prolific when it comes to reproducing its numbers.

There is yet another point to consider. As the Hungarian foreign minister emphasized in his interview, much of the migrants who entered Europe arrived by ‘invitation’ of sorts in that they knew the larger European countries, namely Germany, England and France, in tandem with non-profit organizations like George Soros’ Open Society, would provide them with a relatively respectable stipend once they breach the borders of some European country(it should be no surprise that Germany is viewed as the ‘Holy Land’ as far as these economic migrants are concerned). In a report detailing the outlays provided to migrants arriving in Germany, it was reported that “a single adult receives € 408/month on average for everything but rent and health insurance, which the state pays for.” Now if that doesn’t set the conditions for a full-blown exodus into Europe I really don’t know what will. And it has. To date, millions of undocumented migrants have spread out to the four corners of Europe, the consequences of which nobody can predict.

One thing can be said with certainty, however. The great sacrifices of great European men, like John Sobieski and Charles Martel, seem to have been utterly wasted by modern leaders who simply do not have the best interest of their state, not to mention Western civilization, at heart.The site of German Chancellor Angela Merkel snatching the German flag from one of her colleagues during a political assembly, or French President Emmanuel Macron insisting that there is “no such thing as French culture” tells us everything we need to know about these so-called ‘leaders,’ who have betrayed the spirit of European fortitude that allowed Europe to survive and flourish in the first place. Europe should be thankful there are leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban or Sebastian Kurz, 31, the new Austrian chancellor who soared to victory by campaigning on stricter border controls in Europe.

Why is common sense in such short supply these days in the Western world?

It cannot be denied that much of Europe’s problems with the migration crisis are the result of it hitching its wagon to the falling star of US foreign policy. However, that does not serve as a reasonable argument for Europe to open its doors to a migrant invasion.  If Europe, as well as some of the more notorious NGOs, really want to help migrants from the Middle East, they could start by demanding their governments stop supporting military operations abroad. This is exactly what our modern ‘social justice warriors’ should be demanding, yet they are absolutely silent on the war front. And if they insist on paying these war victims, who are certainly deserving of sympathy, then better to send the humanitarian assistance to those war-torn places instead of inviting hordes to European shores.

As things stand, or fall, Europe’s ultimate survival will come down to brave and courageous men, the Martels and Sobieskis of our times, to thwart any new foreign invasions being delivered to Europe’s doorstep inside the Trojan Horse of ‘good intentions,’ which we all know where ultimately leads.

Is Europe Falling Apart?

November 16, 2018

The EU: “No. We’re not in negotiation. We’re not in a discussion. The rules are the rules.”

Brussels is standing tough, but moderates like Theresa May are gradually being pushed out of power in Europe.

British Prime Minister Theresa May at a press conference at 10 Downing Street in London on Nov. 15. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

British Prime Minister Theresa May at a press conference at 10 Downing Street in London on Nov. 15. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)

One thing you can say: The center is holding. For now at least, Brussels is standing tough. After all, one could not always say that about Europe, where so rarely in history has there been a firm center at all. But this time the falcons can surely hear the falconer.

The falcons in this case are two major, wayward countries, the United Kingdom and Italy. The first wants to leave the European Union painlessly (and many would say delusionally) while the second simply wants to break its rules—also painlessly. Like a tag team, Britain and Italy have been trading crisis headlines day by day, while Brussels’s bemused bureaucrats hold their ground.

Late this week it was London’s turn as Prime Minister Theresa May’s Tory government all but imploded over her Brexit proposal, which both Conservatives and Labourites dismissed as too beholden to EU rules. After a five-hour cabinet meeting that followed two years of fitful negotiations with Brussels, four high-profile ministers including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab quit the cabinet on Thursday, and pundits expressed doubts May could get the deal through Parliament or even survive politically herself.

Waiting in the wings was Britain’s version of U.S. President Donald Trump (albeit a far more erudite one), MP Boris Johnson, the passionately nationalist Brexiteer who quit as foreign secretary last July, claiming in his resignation letter that the U.K. was “headed for the status of a colony” if May’s Brexit compromise plans are adopted.

Like most of May’s critics, Johnson has not offered an alternative plan. Even so, despite May’s pledge on Thursday to fight for her deal “with every fiber of my being,” speculation is rife that Johnson could take her place. If that happens, it would almost certainly mean a “hard” exit that might leave the British economy in shambles. Already the pound is plunging.

Farther south, the Italian government is pushing for greater deficit spending, which the European Commission said is not permissible because it would ostensibly violate the rigid rules laid out in the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact. Commission officials rejected Italy’s budget because it increases the deficit to 2.4 percent while Italy’s government debt is more than double the eurozone limit of 60 percent. Italy’s populist government, in a response Tuesday, made a couple of minor adjustments and then defied Brussels to fine it.

Asked last week whether a compromise might be found, EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici responded, “No. We’re not in negotiation. We’re not in a discussion. The rules are the rules.”

Which, of course, is a pretty good opening position in a negotiation (because that’s what it was). Italy may now suffer the first penalties ever imposed under the budget rules, putting all that Italian debt at risk and the eurozone’s integrity in crisis at a time when Italy has the fourth-largest sovereign debt in the world.

Fortunately, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is Italian and has proven in the past he’s willing to buy up a lot of debt. According to Harold James, a Princeton University historian who specializes in Europe, what both the Italy and U.K. cases “really show is how absolutely impossible it is to try to leave the EU. And what bad things would happen if you try to do that.”

So perhaps these national flare-ups shouldn’t be terribly concerning to the outside world, except that it’s all happening at a time of economic slowdown and rising right-wing populism that could further fracture the EU politically. That’s especially true in Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, where it was the EU’s previous bailout of Greece, pushed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, that turned the far-right Alternative for Germany party into a major player.

According to German commentator Stephan Richter, the attitude in Berlin now is “if Britain and Italy want to commit seppuku, we can’t stop them.”

Worse, this is happening as other renewed right-wing forces are mounting while prominent moderates are leaving the stage.

Until now the far-right in power has been largely confined to Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary. That’s no longer true: One half of Italy’s coalition government is the right-wing, anti-immigration Lega. The moderates, by contrast, are embattled. Merkel recently announced she’s stepping down as party leader in Germany, May is crippled, and in France President Emmanuel Macron—who after his 2017 election was seen as Europe’s centrist, liberal antidote to Trump—is deeply unpopular while his right-wing rival, Marine Le Pen, is surging back into contention in the polls.

And of course, Donald Trump is loving it—and openly encouraging it. After Macron, speaking in Paris last week at a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, indirectly criticized Trump’s proud declaration that he is a “nationalist” by saying “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Trump all but called on French right-wing forces to defeat the French leader.

“The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%,” Trump tweeted. “By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!……..”

During her failed presidential campaign in 2017, Marine Le Pen described Trump’s election as “an additional stone in the building of a new world.”

Or perhaps in a vast pile of rubble. Only the months ahead will tell.


Czech Republic to say “no” U.N. migration pact: report

November 14, 2018

The Czech Republic will not join a United Nations pact that aims to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide, the CTK news agency said on Wednesday, quoting Czech Prime Minster Andrej Babis.

Migration (picture-alliance/Zuma Press/London News Pictures/P. Hackett)

The Czech government had signaled its opposition to the pact earlier this month. It joins the growing ranks of European Union nations opposed to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

EU Court rules that Hungary’s state monopoly over mobile payments is illegal

November 7, 2018

The European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that the Hungarian state’s monopoly over national mobile payment services was illegal.

Image result for Hungary, nation, photos

The ruling would require the end of exclusive control over Hungarian mobile payments exercised since July 2014 by state-owned firm Nemzeti Mobilfizetesi Zrt.

Image result for Nemzeti Mobilfizetesi, pictures

This exclusive operation “is contrary to EU law,” the bloc’s top court said in a statement.

“Even if the services provided under that system constitute services of general economic interest, their supply cannot be reserved to a state monopoly,” the court added.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg


German conservatives against UN migration pact

November 6, 2018

Opposition within the CDU to a UN migration pact has grown despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s backing. Critics say the Global Compact for Migration conflates economic migration and refugees.

Migration (picture-alliance/Zuma Press/London News Pictures/P. Hackett)

There are growing reservations within Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) about Germany signing onto a planned United Nations migration pact.

Marian Wendt, a CDU lawmaker and member of the Bundestag’s home affairs committee, told DW on Tuesday that the compact does not distinguish between economic migration and asylum-seekers.

The non-legally binding Global Compact for Migration was finalized in July and is set to be adopted by UN member states in December, but some within the CDU are demanding further debate, and are annoyed with the German Foreign Ministry for failing to communicate the issue properly.

“It’s less about the compact itself,” he said. “I think it’s important that we create a global framework for the control of migration. I am mainly concerned about the way it was communicated. We as the CDU have squandered our credit when it comes to the issue of migration in the last few years. The trust of the people is not very strong on this issue with us. That’s why we need to do everything to make sure we don’t create the impression that something is being negotiated behind closed doors.”

Read more: What is the UN migration pact — and why do some oppose it?He and other conservatives will be speaking out against signing onto the UN pact in its current form, Wendt said.

Growing discontent

The pact has been a major issue for the far-right and their supporters in Germany, a fact that appears to have been picked up by some of the leading contenders to replace Merkel as  CDU leader at a party conference in December. One of the three front-runners, Health Minister Jens Spahn, questioned Germany’s commitment to the pact over the weekend.

“What is important is that Germany keeps its sovereign power to control, steer and limit migration,” Spahn told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday, after pointing out that the CDU’s parliamentary faction was still to debate the point.

Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party called a debate on the pact in the Bundestag for Thursday, telling reporters on Tuesday that “its current form represents a threat to the national sovereignty of Germany, the democratic legitimacy of state action, as well as the principle of the rule of law.”

Read more: Germany’s new immigration laws open door for skilled labor

Although the pact is non-binding, there are also concerns by states opposed it that joining it may pave the way to the recognition of a human right to migration.

The United States was the first to announce it would not join the pact, which was agreed by 193 UN member states in July. It was followed by Hungary, Australia and Austria. Poland, the Czech Republic,Slovakia and Italy have signalled they may withdraw as well.

The UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration marks the first time the world body has agreed on a list of global measures to tackle the challenges involved in migration for migrants while at the same time maximizing benefits for the countries taking in immigrants.

The compact is based on the recognition that the world needs to cooperate if current and future migration flows are to be managed in a humane manner, while still taking account of the principle of state sovereignty. Some 258 million people currently live outside their country of birth worldwide, and that number is expected to increase because of climate change, trade, inequality, and population growth.