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2/7/16

The Netherlands: Dutch outsiders preparing warning shot on EU relationship with Ukraine

The Dutch Referendum vote on European trade and political ties with Ukraine on April 6 reflects the increased restlessness on the opposition benches in what was once the EU's heartland. The left fears the erosion of European labor and ecological standards, the right fears the hollowing-out of the state.

The EU relationship with Ukraine and its US propped up Government is mainly in force because it was dictated by the US to counter a potential Russian threat in Crimea 

Marianne Thieme is in the social-justice camp. As head of the first animal-welfare party to win seats in a European legislature, she opposes the overture to Ukraine because apart from the political implications  it would let in more industrially produced foods, undercutting higher-cost, higher-quality European farmers.

The negativity is made incarnate by Geert Wilders, who as head of the Freedom Party has turned euroskepticism into an art form. Wanting Muslims out of the Netherlands and the Netherlands out of the EU -- and facing trial in March for allegedly racist invective about Moroccans -- his party tops the opinion polls.

The Ukraine vote is the law's first test. With campaigning just under way, opinions are tightening. Opponents of liberalized EU-Ukraine trade are ahead by 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent, narrowing from 62 percent to 38 percent in December, according to a poll published Feb. 1 in De Volksrant.

A "democratic revolution" is in the works, with the Internet remaking society much as the printing press did, said Thierry Baudet, chairman of the Forum for Democracy and a co- initiator of the referendum. "Politics needs to change alongside those major events. And the EU is the most outdated of all: it's the 1970s solution to a 1950s problem."

EU-Digest

Turkey: Unacceptable brutal behavior Erdogan bodyguards during his Equador visit

Erdogan's Unacceptable Behavior
Ecuador has protested to Turkey over an incident in which demonstrators were violently ejected during a speech by visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the capital, Quito.

Three women protesters were thrown out of the venue by Turkish security. An Ecuadorean MP was also reportedly injured during Thursday's incident.

Click here for newly-released footagewhich  shows personal bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan violently attacking three female protesters during his speech in Ecuador before wrestling them away.

Ecuador's foreign minister says the guards' behaviour was "irresponsible".

Mr Erdogan was in Quito to boost diplomatic and trade ties with Ecuador.

As Mr Erdogan prepared to hold a news conference at the National Higher Studies Institute, protesters demonstrated against recent operations by Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers's Party (PKK) militant group.

Inside the hall, when the three women heckled Mr Erdogan, they were set upon by his personal guards and a scuffle ensued. One protester was momentarily placed in a headlock.

 Read more: Ecuador protests to Turkey over Erdogan speech scuffle - BBC News

2/6/16

EU: Hands off Schengen! - by Georges Dassi

The essence of the European Union and its broad principles are set out in the Treaty on European Union, and not in the first Schengen agreement. But when they signed it on 14 June 1985, the five founder states stated:

"Aware that the ever closer union of the peoples of the member states of the European Communities should find its expression in the freedom to cross internal borders for all nationals of the member states and in the free movement of goods and services," and, "Anxious to strengthen the solidarity between their peoples by removing the obstacles to free movement at the common borders between the states ...".

These two sentences encapsulate precisely what the current threats to the agreements and their implementation could mean: the price of reimposing barriers to free movement of people and goods where we had succeeded in getting rid of them will be higher than the cost of putting up new barriers and paying the border guards just so we can revisit the old days.

Yes, those were the days, queuing up in your car to go through customs. If you're old enough you might remember how you only really felt you were on holiday when you'd crossed those two barriers. It gave real meaning to the word "foreign".

And then again, what a boon for our logistics companies and, behind them, all their clients who are trying to sell their products or buy their raw materials elsewhere than in their own country. Just like our parents and grandparents, we can again look on the great United States market with a mix of admiration and jealousy.

With whom, by the way, we may in the meantime have signed a trade liberalisation agreement. We will see how equally that benefits the two sets of millions of consumers on each side of the Atlantic – one united and one fragmented.

What's more, our businesses have lost that healthy habit of building up national stocks. Now things are too easy, and they don't need to factor in delays any more, they load their stock directly onto the lorries or containers. We'll have to have another look at all that – think "lorry queues at Calais".

In fact, the effects of shutting down Schengen would go much further: if solidarity is strengthened by taking down obstacles, then it is bound to be weakened when they are put back up. If freedom to cross borders and free movement are the expression of an ever closer union between peoples, then anything that hinders them points to division between peoples.

Not so long ago Europe – the whole continent, not just the EU – was the world champion in walls, with a particularly impermeable "Iron Curtain" that was all the more sinister because trying to cross it cost quite a few "asylum seekers" their lives. In the end, it came down amid universal rejoicing.

And if I remember correctly, it was "civil society" that brought it down, the flow of refugees just being too great for it to withstand. Some people are so nostalgic it seems they want to bring it back all along our internal borders.

The European venture is of course a noble, intelligent and open one, because it was born of the determination of men and women who, in the wake of a devastating war with all the horrible crimes it entailed, worked to ensure that problems would be settled otherwise than by the barrel of a gun.

And because as well as peace, it had a strong economic and an embryonic social dimension – the purpose behind the institution of which I am president – it of course acted as a magnet to all those peoples who had not yet joined it.

I think the people of Europe urgently need to mobilise to stop the return of obstacles to free movement for themselves and for goods. We are hearing far too often at the moment from an active minority who are hostile to European integration, and not enough from the majority of people who don't want to lose what they have gained or their freedoms.
Creating obstacles will do nothing to solve the refugee problem, or any other problem. On the contrary, it could herald a disunity of peoples that might even threaten peace itself – which is far from the invulnerable heritage our past successes may have led us to believe. The solution lies elsewhere, and the European Union is not the problem – indeed, it is the solution.

Read more: Hands off Schengen! | EurActiv

British Referendum: Support For Britain Leaving The EU Surges To 45 Percent

The campaign hoping to take Britain out of the European Union (EU) is enjoying a fresh lead in the polls with 45 percent of British citizens supporting secession and 36 percent supporting the status quo.

Later this year, Britain will vote on whether to leave the EU, with most commentators expecting the vote to come in May or June.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has spent the last few months touring European capitals, attempting to win concessions from EU leaders to change the terms of Britain’s EU membership.

During last year’s general election in May, the Conservatives promised they would deliver a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should stay or leave the EU by the end of 2017. The Conservative Party won a surprise victory with a majority of 12 seats in parliament.

Note EU=Digest: the British want their cake and eat it also. Being member of a club which includes 27 other members requires cooperation, give and take and not a free for all. If the Brits can't understand that they better get out of the EU and enjoy the consequences.  

Read more: Support For Britain Leaving The EU Surges To 45 Percent | The Daily Caller

US Politics: A European looks at the US political establishment and the upcoming Presidential elections - by RM

The US 2016 Presidential race has begun
A Dutchman who lived nearly half his life in the US was recently asked on a local radio show what his impressions were about the upcoming US Presidential elections and his perception on the two major parties involved in the elections.

"Looking at both US political parties, and mainly basing my observations on policy and  popular appeal , the Democratic party probably sticks head and shoulders above the Republican party, or at least what has become of this party over the years ."  

"Famous Republican politicians like Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan would probably turn over in their grave if they could see what has become of their party.".

"On the face of it,  the Democratic party seems to be more of a reflection/cross-section of America re: cultural, religious and ethnic mix, rich, poor, intellectual , less gifted, gay, lesbian and socially conscious."

Today's Republican party is mainly white, Judeo Christian, militaristic, reflects a preponderance of "doublespeak, and quite ignorant, as to the realities that are at play in today's world .

Rolling Stone magazine wrote about Republicans : "All you have to do to secure a Republican vote today is to show lots of pictures of gay people kissing, black kids with their pants pulled down, or Mexican babies at an emergency room. Then you push forward some "dingbat" like Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin to reassure everyone that the Republican Party knows who the real Americans are."

"Unfortunately, on the negative side, many politicians from both political parties are quite corrupt and over the years the US corporate establishment has developed a brilliant political strategy to capitalize on this  and benefit from this greed."

"Their scheme is quite simple - corporate America donates heavily to both parties, essentially hiring two different sets of politicians to market their needs and goods to the public. The Republicans, as a result,  give them everything that they want, while the Democrats give them "almost everything".

Corporate America, however, seems to get more in return for their bribes from the Republicans than from the Democrats, because Democrats and their special interest groups, given their diversity and more liberal leanings, often also happen to ask more questions."

Instead of having short, publicly-funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising (as a number of Western European countries do), the US has long political campaigns in which candidates need big bucks for advertising. They are therefore forced to spend much of their time fundraising, which is to say, seeking bribes. Consequently many US politicians are basically on the take. They are forced into it not only by the system but also by their own greed..

Former Republican  majority leader John Boehner actually once handed out cash on the floor of the US Congress from the tobacco industry to other representatives.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in 2012, soon thereafter French police actually went into his home searching for an alleged € 50,000 in illicit campaign contributions from the ’Oreale heiress.

Seriously? € 50,000 in a presidential campaign? US presidential campaigns cost at least a billion Euro's  each!  The George W. Bush campaign accepted millions from arms manufacturers and then created a war for them, and the police haven’t been anywhere near his home yet.

American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honorable exceptions, they represent the 1% at the top  of the US financial ladder.

Bottom line: Bernie Sanders, one of the most progressive Democratic Presidential candidates noted in one of his stump speeches in the state of Ohio recently: "American democracy is being corrupted out of existence."

Will the American electorate elect Bernie as the first socialist President of America as a result? Probably not, but major changes are coming to the US political system. The "status quo" could be over.


EU-Digest

2/5/16

Germany - TTIP: German judges slap TTIP down as unlawful

https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Vzu7937uoa8/VrV2IUpMZuI/AAAAAAAALLU/-1IorOSGi6I/s1600/EU%2BUS%2BSymbol.jpgThe German Magistrates Association (DRB) has delivered a slap in the face to the European Union, by coming out against one of the key planks of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - the special courts allowing investors and corporations to sue national governments if their policies happen to threaten their profits.

"The DRB sees neither a legal basis nor a need for such a court," the association said in a statement issued on Wednesday. The judges added that the assumption that foreign investors currently don't already enjoy "effective judicial protection" has no "factual basis."

Part of the TTIP deal proposed by the European Commission is a new Investment Court System (ICS) meant exclusively to protect investors. According to the DRB statement, the European Commission's definition of an investor's assets is so wide it effectively gives the ICS jurisdiction that "extends from civil law through to general administrative law and social and tax legislation." In other words, it potentially gives corporations the opportunity to sue governments over any piece of legislation it deems a threat.

The judges said the ICS represents a threat to the sovereignty of legal systems already in place in Europe, and they put little faith in the EU's ability to manage it:

"The German Magistrates Association has serious doubts whether the European Union has the competence to institute an investment court," the statement read. "An ICS would not only limit the legislative powers of the Union and the Member States; it would also alter the established court system within the Member States and the European Union."

The judges' statement is being celebrated as a serious setback for the TTIP negotiations by the deal's opponents, not least because the ICS was meant to be a compromise to assuage critics' concerns.

The ICS was proposed by EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström as a permanent and organized alternative to the improvised courts in the current investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and which are currently used in trade deals between individual countries.

"The EU offices must be in turmoil now," said Nick Dearden of UK-based campaign group Global Justice Now. "They were really nervous about ever getting through an agreement that had ISDS in it, because every time they've done consultations on it people have overwhelmingly said they don't like it. So they put this on the table."

Note EU-Digest : click on this link to see what this so called TTIP treaty is all about and the dangers it entails

Read more: German judges slap TTIP down | Germany | DW.COM | 04.02.2016