Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category
The EU is now officially headed by an aubergine, and a turnip. It’s actually two people, really, and I am sure they are worthy of all praises, but the fact that their notoriety was strictly limited to local phone directories and the immediate family suggests that 27 European leaders can only agree on names nobody will ever be satisfied with (and never mind they look like Gary Larson’s characters too).
The end result will be two-and-a-half years in which hundreds of millions of European will be represented on the world stage literally by Nobody. Could anybody please tell me who is ever going to listen to “Nobody”?
Expect 30 months of European daze.
Congratulations to all those not selected, as it indicates they were candidates of some importance. And please do keep the President of the EU away from the President of the USA, as in terms of charisma they are the respective antiparticle. If they’ll just shake their hands, they’ll annihilate!
Recently I have been a panelist on TV talk-show “Forum”, presented by Andrew Gilligan on PressTV. I have been invited as London Media Officer for Silvio Berlusconi’s party, “The People of Freedom”.
One of the other panelists was Mary Honeyball MEP (Lab). The below is my reply to her blog “The Lure of the Bright Lights“:
One of the points made during the programme is that the far-rightists take advantage of the divisions among mainstream political parties. I am afraid you are perpetuating those divisions. I can assure you that Silvio Berlusconi’s party, “The People of Freedom” (”Popolo della Liberta’”) is on your “same side regarding the far right”.
In fact, there is no Party in the Italian governing coalition that could be described as belonging to the “far right” by any stretch of the imagination.
We, just like the European People’s Party as a whole, have the fight against all forms of fascism of old and new as one of our foundation stones. And let me be proud of the fact that throughout all recent elections all Italian far-rightists have been losing voters to the point of effectively disappearing from the political spectrum.
Why are things looking different in the UK? This is not something one can answer in a blog’s comment area. Because it takes time to analyse, then to understand what is peculiar about British politics and society. Such a strong and long-standing Parliamentary Democracy as yours, truly the envy of the world, still manages to inspire the rise of absolutely nasty and repugnant parties like the BNP. Why?
Likewise, Europe is a big place, and there is no chance to fight back at the ugly racist and neo-nazi ideas being banded around without having a good look at the peculiarities of each country’s political system and society.
I therefore urge you and everybody else interested in European politics to make the effort to understand the particular circumstances that regard each country. I know it is a huge effort, there’s now 27 of them.
But the last thing we should be doing is mindlessly sticking labels around. By making sweeping statements, sometimes based on what is summarily reported in the media by distracted journalists perhaps with a particular précis to follow, the risk is to create artificial divisions among what is an overwhelmingly anti-fascist electorate, effectively presenting tens of millions with the choice between feeling disenfranchised, and voting for the racists.
ps personally, I do not think there is anything to discuss with the BNP’s representatives. I am sure you will agree that it is impossible to change the mind of a Holocaust denialist on any subject. If I were a British politician, what I would be more interested into would be to share a platform with BNP voters. It is them, the ones we should all be working to welcome back to our world.
I will show my support for the British strikes against the use of foreign labour by leaving the country the day after…getting back all the taxes I have paid in the UK since Nov 1, 1997.
It’s your chance, Gordon, to free up yet another workplace for a native of Albion. And for a relatively minor amount of money too!!!
Some worries on The Economist about what the Europeans will make of the upcoming new relationship with President Obama, admittedly a very open question as the interests of the United States very seldom perfectly coincide with anybody else’s.
There is one big difference with Obama though. I think especially in Europe, he enjoys such a vast popularity, all he’ll have to do is show up on TV and make direct appeals to European public opinion.
Local politicians, each one of them no doubt already praying to be the First One To Be Photographed With Barack, will simply declare their concordance with whatever the White House will propose regarding Iraq, Iran, Israel, Russia, NATO, and the choice of hypoallergenic dogs.
Surprisingly upbeat news report on BBC Radio4 tonight about the upcoming elections in Belarus (Sunday 28 Sep).
President/Dictator Aleksander Lukashenko is still the dominating force but his Government is at least pretending to be more democratic than last time around. In all likelihood, these overtures will result in an organized opposition, leading to a new round of repression and/or the end of Lukashenko’s Dictatorship.
ps rumor has it that Belarus is just trying to woo the EU, in order to have a little more weight in its relationship with Russia…
I was attracted at first to UCLA History Professor Perry Anderson’s contribution to the London Review of Books (LRB) in the 11 Sep 2008 issue (“After the Ottomans”, also titled “Kemalism”) by four peculiarities.
First of all the topic: the discussions about letting Turkey in the European Union are obviously helping define what the “European Union” actually is (or is not). The history of modern Turkey occupies an important spot in the debate, and Anderson’s article promised to deal with that in great detail.
In fact (and here lies the second oddity about “After the Ottomans”) it was a very long piece, running to a total of more than 14,000 words.
This is not a good or bad thing per se: but the vast majority of LRB articles are much, much shorter, little more than a couple of pages in print and less than 5,000 words (2,700 words for Rosemary Hill‘s “Making Do and Mending”, 25 Sep 2008; 4,700 words for Sheila Fitzpatrick’s “Like a Thunderbolt”, 11 Sep 2008) .
Longer pieces are not common; for example the 15,000 words for John Upton’s “In the Streets of Londonistan”, 22 Jan 2004). Actually, the fact that authors are given a restricted space to express their opinions, does set the LRB apart from, say, the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker.
Third, LRB articles usually sport very peculiar titles (check the examples above): Anderson’s was very uncharacteristically just a pure statement of fact.
Fourth, as it appeared obvious from the start, Anderson was not going to review any particular book: “After the Ottomans” was an essay in political history, with more than a whiff of polemics about everything Turkey.
Imagine then my surprise (or lack thereof) when the very next issue of the LRB hosted yet another Perry Anderson article on Turkey (“After Kemal”, 25 Sep 2008).
Once again the unimaginative title, the lack of any book to review (rather than simply quote and mostly, summarily dispose of), and the huge amount of paper devoted to it: 10 full pages, 16,000 words, of course mostly with very little of positive to say about Turkey.
So we got all of 30,000+ words on the single topic of post-Ottoman Turkish history: perhaps a record for the LRB, perhaps not. But it was all natural that I started wondering what was behind the LRB Editors’ choice to deluge their readers with enough words to fill up around 15 “standard” articles.
Now, I am not going to dwell into the “truth” of what Anderson has written about, from the end of the Ottoman Empire to today (it would be nice if a counter-article were to appear, perhaps on the LRB itself).
Who am I (who is anybody) to be able to reply to Anderson’s finely detailed history of Turkey, without risking getting buried by hundreds of pieces of information that only a lifelong study of a subject can provide?
And still: the two bits I dare considering myself rather familiar with, the conditions leading to the 1980 coup and the preparations and aftermath of the 1974 invasion of Cyprus, I do not remember them as clear-cut as described by Anderson, with the Turks invariably playing the “baddy” roles.
In truth, “After the Ottomans” and “After Kemal” do not read as works of scholarship as much as political-journalistic polemical essays, like a pamphlet of old, with an underlying “discourse” that keeps both articles together and absolutely consistent throughout. Oh, and all scholars that disagree with Anderson, each single one of them, have sold their souls to the Devil, I mean, the Ankara government.
In Anderson’s Turkish history everything is explained and neatly falls in place within the “narrative”. Even what shouldn’t follow that pattern (like the end of Menderes’ rule after being described as economically and politically strong) is classified as “part of a cycle” common to all centre-right Turkish governments: a cycle whose existence and reasons are however not truly explored.
Therein lies my biggest critique of Anderson’s double anti-Turkish whammy. Readers are being offered a partial and partisan representation of history, dressed up as the one and only truth, with no a single doubt expressed to it.
Turkey, they learn, is invariably on the wrong side of history (Turkish leftist politicians aside, apparently), behaving rather badly and with little in common to the rest of Europe, apart from a relentlessly-pursued (by Anderson) list of all that makes successive Kemalist and post-Kemalist governments in Ankara a sort of heirs to the Nazis.
That may be so: but why devote 30,000 words to it right now? Well, Anderson does actually provide an unwitting explanation to that: ironically, by making a very strong case for Turkish EU membership:
The conventional reasons for which it is pressed within the EU are legion: militarily, a bulwark against terrorism; economically, dynamic entrepreneurs and cheap labour; politically, a model for regional neighbours; diplomatically, a bridge between civilisations; ideologically, the coming of a true multiculturalism in Europe. In the past, what might have been set against these considerations would have been fears that such an elongation of the Union, into such remote terrain, must undermine its institutional cohesion, compromising any chance of federal deepening. But that horse has already bolted. To reject Turkish membership on such a basis would be shutting the door well after there was any point in it. The Union is becoming a vast free range for the factors of production, far from an agora of any collective will, and the addition of one more grazing ground, however large or still relatively untended, will not alter its nature.
In Turkey itself, as in Europe, the major forces working for its entry into the Union are the contemporary incarnations of the party of order: the bourse, the mosque, the barracks and the media. The consensus that stretches across businessmen and officers, preachers and politicians, lights of the press and of television, is not quite a unanimity. Here and there, surly voices of reaction can be heard. But the extent of concord is striking. What, if the term has any application, of the party of movement? It offers the one good reason, among so many crass or spurious ones, for welcoming Turkey into the Union. For the Turkish left, politically marginal but culturally central, the EU represents hope of some release from the twin cults and repressions of Kemal and the Koran; for the Turkish poor, of chances of employment and elements of welfare; for Kurds and Alevis, of some rights for minorities
Is it this then: with his essays, is Anderson trying to weigh in to keep Turkey out the EU unless certain conditions are met, exactly because there is an overwhelming list of reasons for Turkey to be accepted right now? It is telling that the listed “hopes” for the Turkish left, the Kurds, the Alevis form for Anderson some of the reasons for impeding Turkey’s “accession process”: thereby killing those very same “hopes”…
One last point: Anderson has been provided a pulpit by a major publication. Is the LRB in the business of torpedo-ing the chances for a European Turkey?
I do think the LRB Editors should come out honestly about it, explaining their own reasons for allocating a large amount of magazine real estate to…a pamphlet. A pamphlet unlike any other LRB article.
Letter to the International Herald Tribune
Dear Editors, dear Ms. Dempsey
Can anybody seriously describe the ongoing Kosovo crisis as a good-guys vs. bad-guys conflict, as attempted in Ms. Dempsey’s “Letter from Europe“, June 11, 2008, published on the IHT as “Deadlock in Kosovo risks Balkan instability“?
The articles is a relentless attack on everything Russia and Serbia have to say about Kosovo, with the EU depicted as the poor victim of a machination intending to deprive Kosovo of true independence, by keeping the UN around.
We are even treated to the classic “It is not for lack of trying by the Europeans or the United States to reach an agreement with Russia over Kosovo“, about the aborted Ahtisaari Plan.
Well, Ms Dempsey is well aware and even describes in the article the situation in Northern Mitrovica: could she please then try to explain on what basis would the Ahtisaari Plan free Albanian Kosovars from Belgrade’s rule, while effectively imprisoning the Mitrovican Serbs under Pristina’s?
Neither the EU nor the USA have shown much interest in upholding the rights of the minority Serbs in Kosovo, all too focused in promoting the rights of the minority Albanians in Serbia. This is no recipe for a lasting and peaceful settlement, with or without Russia: and in fact to this day there is no lasting peaceful settlement in sight.
It is also too easy for Ms Dempsey to push aside the legality question. It is not just a matter of Vladimir Putin “claiming that Kosovo’s independence had no international legal basis“. In fact, like Ms Dempsey, also the EU, the USA and legions of international legal experts still have not found any legal basis for Kosovo’s independence.
The best they could come up with, it’s a “sui generis” clause, hoping that all problems will evaporate if everybody agrees that Kosovo’s is a case unique in history, never to be repeated again.
That’s no legal explanation for bypassing the United Nations in order to create a new State in Europe.
Does anybody believe the situation is better today than before “independence” came to Kosovo, with the EU’s “undermined security ambitions” also thanks to its deep divisions on the topic, as correctly pointed out by Ms. Dempsey?
Are we any better down the path of Balkan stability, a “region where the slightest misunderstanding or provocation can lead to violence“? I for one am not sure about that. But if we want to be serious at dealing with this problem, that’s not just a question for Russia to answer.