Thursday, 29 November 2012

PALESTINE: '' The UN bid'': The Palestinians at the brink of historic moment

The Palestinians will present the statehood bid to the UN General Assembly today, 29th November 2012. The bid needs a majority vote from the assembly's 193 members to win, which already recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, are in favor of the update. The acting PA Chief, Mahmoud Abbas sent 316-word resolution late Monday, ahead of today bid.

Currently, Palestine is regarded as an observer entity at the United Nations. Accepting Palestine as non-member state, similar to the Vatican's UN status, would implicitly recognize the Palestinian statehood.

This time around, the Palestinian Authority's bid at the United Nations to upgrade its status will be backed by nearly half of the all European Unions nations, except of course Great Bretain and Germany.

Last year, eleven EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Spain, backed the decision by the UN cultural agency (Unesco) to admit Palestine as a member.  Eleven of the EU countries abstained: Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the UK. Those who voted against were the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The United States and Israel, however, have spared no means for the past two years to stymie the Palestinians' efforts towards upgrading Palestine's status at the UN, arguing that it is only through negotiations with Israel that Palestinian statehood ambitions can yield.

The US blocked Palestine's full membership bid at the UN Security Council last year, using its veto power. In 2010, Israel broke down the talks after refusing to extend a moratorium on its settlement activities on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The PA cites Israel's continued aggression against Palestinians and Tel-Aviv's settlement activities on the Occupied Palestinian Territories as the major reasons for its push for the upgrade. The Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas has thrown its weigh behind Abbas and welcomed the ''step of going to the United Nations for state observer status.

The observer state status will grant Palestinians access to UN agencies and the International Criminal Court, where they could file complaints against Israel.

On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which recognized the need to establish a Jewish state alongside am Arab state in the former British Mandate territory of Palestime.

The Palestinian side, which is ready to return to the negotiating table, after granting the Palestinian state's membership, believes that this could be the last chance for making peace in the Middle East, on the one hand, Israel is more concerned that granting Palestine '' non-member observer state'' at the UN could automatically giving Palestine the power to make a case against Israel at the International  Criminal Court, on the other hand.

Two days ago, the US has termed as ''mistake'' the Palestinian bid to become a non-member observer state at the UN, a move supported by countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa-warning it would derail the West Asia peace process and vowing to oppose it. The UK has echoed the same sentiment.

If Palestine's wish of ''non member observer state'' is granted today, it could be a historic moment for the Palestinians and Israel must rethink its strategies of the peace process.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

CLIMATE CHANGE: '' Doha Summit'': 2 degrees Celsius target: Is Unrealistic

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha this week is turning into a farce. While negotiators are sticking to the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, even climatologists admit that the projet has failed.

Thousands of negotiators, environmentalists and industry lobbyists are meeting in the Doha to set the course for an international treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But the world has already turned its back on the issue. And if that weren't unnerving enough, the attendees from 194 countries are  debating a project that everyone suspects is no longer achievable: the 2-degree target.

The UN agreement, signed in 1997, was designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries to 5% less than 1990 levels by the end of 2012 and to spur investment in low-carbon development in developing economies. But the gathering nations in Doha are nowhere near these outcomes.

Having set out to resolve the impending end of the Kyoto protocol in Durban in December 2011, they instead kicked the can down the road to 2020, with lots of work to do before 2015 in order to define successor agreement to Kyoto. Some of that work is in progress in Doha, when 195 country negotiators gather to finalise the extension of the protocol.

These issues need to be negotiated under circumstances very different to those when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change began its work in 1994. Back then, it was the world of common but differentiated responsibilities as wealthy most developed economies sought to engage the developed economies in a global solution.

Now the world's most developed economies, specially the US and the EU- are fighting the impacts of recession, high rates of unemployment and colossal fiscal deficits. Developing economies, including China, India, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa, have their problems, but rapid growth in both population and consumption is not one of them.

It remains a mantra for saving the climate that the earth's temperature curve cannot be allowed to climb any further than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Climatologists have calculated how much carbon dioxide emissions from cars, chimneys and fields can increase without jeopardizing the 2-degree target. If we fail in this mission, at least according to their computer models, life on the planet will become intolerable.

But a look at their calculations reveals that limiting the earth's warming to 2 degrees Celsius is no longer realistic. Our thirst for energy is too enormous and our efforts to wean ourselves off fossil fuels have been too insignificant.

Instead of declining, emissions continue to rise year after year. If nothing changes, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) predicted last week, global carbon emissions will increase to about 58 gigatons by 2020 -- much more than the 44 gigatons necessary to adhere to the 2-degree target.

According to the 2011 World Energy Outlook published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global fossil fuel subsidies jumped 30 percent to $523 billion (€403 billion) last year. Although countries are spending more and more on renewable energy, subsidies for coal, oil and gas are still six times as high.

In times of crisis, burning fossil fuels helps industry, while the climate must wait. According to a study by the research institute Oxford Economics, almost all key producers of greenhouse gas are spending decreasing amounts on saving the planet. Crisis-ridden Spain plans to cut €3.8 billion ($4.9 billion) from its climate protection budget by 2015, Great Britain will reduce spending by €3.1 billion, and  Germany is cutting climate-related spending by €1.5 billion. When ranked by how much it spends on climate protection as a percentage of total spending, the United States comes in last.

But hardly anyone is about to admit it. Climate activists won't admit it, because they're afraid that without strict targets, no government can be compelled to reduce emissions. And neither will politicians, because they're the ones who injected the 2-degree target into the global debate in the first place.

Although physically speaking it is still possible to reach the 2-degree target, it seems that it's hardly feasible politically, it's more realistic to limit global warming to 3 degrees Celsius. Even that, of course, would be associated with massive efforts worldwide. That would require a carbon-free global economy, in which no more oil or gas is burned anywhere on the planet, and in which all cars operate without fossil fuel and aircraft fly without kerosene.

China, for example, is responsible for 29 percent of worldwide, energy-related CO2 emissions, and it's also the world's biggest air polluter. But the leadership in Beijing doesn't like this superlative, preferring to cite a different number, which shows that per capita, the 1.4 billion Chinese are responsible for only a fraction of what Americans and most Europeans emit.

Whatever a climate compromise looks like in the end, it will have to be characterized by "fairness, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," said Xie Zhenhua, the head of Beijing's delegation, when he presented his strategy for the Doha climate conference last Wednesday.

What he meant was that emissions reductions are ok, but everyone else should start first.
The Indians hold the same view. Although their delegation fundamentally voted for a reduction in greenhouse gases at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban last year, India has a price for that, which it will also present to the European Union in Doha: financial assistance and the transfer of environmental technology.

The United States also has other priorities. At the first press conference after his reelection, President Barack Obama fundamentally acknowledged the importance of climate protection. But then he promptly added that this could not get in the way of the anticipated economic recovery. "Jobs and growth" are Americans' biggest concern, said the president. "If the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's going to go for that. I won't go for that," he added.

For many years, at least the citizens of the EU could feel good about playing in the league of climate rescuers. At a number of UN conferences, the EU pushed forward with ambitious goals.
Of course, little of that is in evidence in Doha. Originally, the EU had planned to commit itself to considerably tougher reduction targets for greenhouse gas. But Poland, a significant coal producer, was the first to thwart the plan. European Commissioner Hedegaard now admits that it is no longer feasible in the short term.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

EUROPE: '' Greece Deal agreed'': The EU & IMF's Christmas gift to Greece

Eurozone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund have reached a deal on an urgently needed new debt target for Greece. After nearly 10 hours of discussion, the officials agreed to reduce Greek debt by €40 billion, paving the way towards releasing an urgently needed tranche of bailout loans. The debt had been cut to 124 per cent of gross domestic product.

Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said ministers would formally approve the release of a major aid installment needed to recapitalize Greece's teetering banks and enable the government to pay wages, pensions and suppliers on December 13.

Eurozone finance Chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the agreement includes:
 1. A plan to reduce Greece's debt level to 124% of its GDP by 2020 and below 110% by 2022. The   IMF had originally insisted on a debt-to GDP ratio of 120% by 2020.
 2. A cut of 100 basis points on the interest rate charged to Greece by other Eurozone member states, excluding those countries also receiving bailouts.
 3. A 15-year extension of the maturities of loans from other countries and the eurozone's bailout fund-the European Financial Stability Facility-and a deferral of interest payments by Greece on EFSF loans by 10 years.

Greece will receive up to 43.7 billion euros in stages as it fulfills the conditions. The December installment will comprise 23.8 billion for banks and 10.6 billion in budget assistance.

The IMF's share, less than a third of the total, will only be paid out once a buy-back of Greek debt has occurred in the coming weeks, but IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the Fund had no intention of pulling out of the program.

They promised to hand back 11 billion euros in profits accruing to their national central banks from European Central Bank purchases of discounted Greek government bonds in the secondary market.
They also agreed to finance Greece to buy back its own bonds from private investors at what officials said was a target cost of around 35 cents in the euro.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on leaving the talks: "I very much welcome the decisions taken by the ministers of finance. They will certainly reduce the uncertainty and strengthen confidence in Europe and in Greece."

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras welcomed the deal. "Everything went well," he told reporters outside his mansion at about 3 a.m. in the morning. "Tomorrow, a new day starts for all Greeks."

However, the biggest opposition party, Syriza, dismissed the deal and said it fell short of what was needed to make the country's debt sustainable. The euro strengthened against the dollar after news of the deal and commodities and Asian shares also rose.

Greece, where the euro zone's debt crisis erupted in late 2009, is the currency area's most heavily indebted country, despite a big "haircut" this year on privately-held bonds. Its economy has shrunk by nearly 25 percent in five years.

Negotiations had been stalled over how Greece's debt, forecast to peak at 190-200 percent of GDP in the coming two years, could be cut to a more sustainable 120 percent by 2020.

The agreed figure fell slightly short of that goal, and the IMF was still insisting that eurozone ministers should make a firm commitment to further steps to reduce the debt stock if Athens implements its adjustment program faithfully.

The key question remains whether Greek debt can become sustainable without euro zone governments having to write off some of the loans they have made to Athens.

Germany  and its northern European allies have hitherto rejected any idea of forgiving official loans to Athens, but EU officials believe that line may soften after next year's German general election.

Schaeuble told reporters earlier that debt forgiveness was legally impossible, not just for Germany but for other euro zone countries, if it was linked to a new guarantee of loans.

A source familiar with IMF thinking said a loan write-off once Greece has fulfilled its adjustment program would be the simplest way to make its debt viable, but other methods such as forgoing interest payments, or lending at below market rates and extending maturities could all help.

The German banking association (BDB) said a fresh "haircut" or forced reduction in the value of Greek sovereign debt, must only happen as a last resort.

No figures were announced for the debt buy-back in an effort to avoid triggering a rise in market prices in anticipation of a buyer. But before the meetings, officials had spoken of a 10 billion euro buy-back, that would achieve a net reduction of about 20 billion euros in the debt stock.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo: Greece's flag-AFP

Monday, 26 November 2012

EUROPE: ''Greece deal'': The IMF & Europe at loggerheads

Eurozone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund are seeking to unfreeze the second bailout package for Greece today, but they first need to agree if some of the official loans to Athens might eventually be forgiven to cut Greek debt.

Athens narrowly passed tough austerity budget, but still waiting for a long delayed €31.5bn aid tranche fron its ''TROIKA'' of official sector creditors-the International Monetary Fund, the European commission and, the European Central Bank.

Without agreement on how to reduce the debt, eurozone ministers and the IMF do not want to resume payments of loan tranches to Athens-even though Greece has met all the conditions-because they have no guarantee on whether the need for emergency financing will ever end.

The IMF and the eurozone are at loggerheads over how much debt relief the country needs and who will bear the cost of lower debt repayments. The IMF and eurozone are expected to reach a compromise and the vital tranche should materialise.

The IMF wants the eurozone to forgive Greece some of the official loans, in what is called Official Sector Involvement(OSI) in EU jardon, but the European Central Bank thinks that a write-down on Greek debt should not be part of the deal.

Another option, which could cut Greek debt by almost 17 percent of GDP, is to defer interest payments on loans to Greece from the EFSF, a temporary bailout fund, by 10 years. The European Central Bank could forego profits on its Greek bond portofolio, bought at a deep discount, cutting the debt pile by a further 4.6 per cent by 2020.

France's finance minister, Moscovici mentioned, on Sunday,that the reduction of interest on bilateral loans, foregoing ECB profits on Greek bonds and the debt buy-back as the options that would need to be applied for a deal as well as additional financing for Athens to keep it funded until 2016, rather than until 2014.

There is a surreal aspect to the debate between the International Monetary Fund and eurozone governments over sustainability of Greek debt. Officials creditors have been consistently wrong about the fututre trajectory of Athens's liability. Arguing over whether they must reach 120 per cent of national income by 2020 or 2022 is a bit like counting the number of Greek gods dancing on a pinhead.

This feud, however, marks an important moment in the relations between Greece's officials lenders. In March the IMF reluctantly agreed to an unrealistic assistance plan, designed to spare governments and European Central Bank from politically difficult losses. The IMF correctly insists that any further aid, must come with a credible debt-reduction plan.

However, despite its tough line, the IMF may struggle to get its way unless it is prepared to pull out of the Greece rescue rather than simply declining its aid to Athens as at present. With the Europeans holding a third of the votes on the IMF's board, the odds are still against the IMF being able to impose its own terms on the rescue or pull out if it did not get its ways.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Friday, 23 November 2012

EUROPE: ''EU Budget Summit'': Fear of failure looms large

Despite hours of talks in Brussels on Thursday night, European Union leaders made little progress toward agreement on the bloc's budget for the years 2014 to 2020. Britain and other, France and Poland, remained steadfast in their demands for cuts. A second summit looks to be the only likely outcome.

Prospects of a deal on the European Union's long term budget dimmed on Friday after a fresh compromise proposal offered concessions to France and Poland but ignored British and German demands for deeper overall spending cuts.

France and Poland respectively are the top recipients of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies and regional aid money, known in EU jargon as cohesion funds. Jointly, the two spending programs consume more than two-thirds of the bloc's annual 130 billion euro outlay.

Every seven years, European Union leaders must come together to agree on a new spending plan, and this year's Commission proposal has been particularly controversial. At a time when many EU countries have tightened their belts significantly, an increase to the EU budget, slight though it may be, has not proven popular among net contributors. They would like to see the budget cut to between €890 billion ( the British target) and €960 billion (as Germany has proposed). But the 17 net recipient countries support the higher Commission proposal.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy had proposed €81 billion in cuts, for a total of €1.01 trillion. But the reduction was not enough for net contributors.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte and Swedish Premier Fredrik Reinfeldt continued to demand billions in cuts. German Chancellor Angela Merkel likewise found the proposed budget to be too large and would like to see further ''moderate cuts''.

After 15 hours of preliminary, bilateral talks, Van Rompuy presented a slightly altered proposal. He reduced the cuts to agricultural subsidies from €25 billion to €17 billion, and the reductions to the structural and cohesion funds from €29 billion to €18 billion. Both were a result of pressure from France and Poland. In exchange, he suggested heavier cuts to infrastructure and research spending. But the revised proposal still included some €81 billion in cuts against the original Commission proposal.

The main conflict is between the UK and France. The gulf between the two countries seems to be so wide that neither Hollande nor Cameron saw fit to hold a bilateral discussion. As for Cameron's demand that EU officials be the next victims of cuts, the French president said there would always be "extreme proposals," he said. Next, he said, will be the proposal that Strasbourg be abandoned as the second seat of European Parliament, an idea that Hollande said was "unacceptable."

British demands for cuts to the pay and perks of EU officials-regarded by some as overly generous compared with national civil servants-were ignored in the compromise.
Merkel is taking on the role of intermediary between net contributors and the beneficiary countries. It seems unlikely, however, that net contributors will be able to push through cuts beyond those included in the Van Rompuy proposal. A compromise that comes to less than €1.01 trillion would have no chance of being passed by European Parliament.
 
One issue negociators fear could derail the talks is toxic debate surrounding Britain's budget rebate, worth 3.5 billion euros last year. Margaret Thatcher won the annual refund in 1984 to reflect the lower share of farm subsidies received by Britain compared with France, Italy and others.
 
EU officials accept that Cameron cannot win the support of Britain's euro-sceptic parliament for any deal that scraps the rebate, and even a proposal to reduce its value may have to be abandoned to win Britain's backing at the summit, at the risk of further alienating other countries.

EU officials accept that Cameron cannot win the support of Britain's euro-sceptic parliament for any deal that scraps the rebate, and even a proposal to reduce its value may have to be abandoned to win Britain's backing at the summit, at the risk of further alienating other countries.

British Prime, David Cameron, has threatened to veto a deal unless it is good for British taxpayers. But another veto, less than a year after he blocked a treaty change to allow stricter fiscal discipline in the euro-zone, would further isolate Britain in Europe and could increase pressure for it to leave the EU.

The negotiations could last into Saturday or Sunday if there is a chance of a deal, and several leaders have cleared their weekend schedules to allow for extended horse-trading.

Failure to strike a deal would add to the impression that EU leaders are unable to take decisive action when needed, after endless rounds of wrangling to resolve the euro-zone's long-running debt crisis over the past three years. It would further damage the EU's image with its 500 millions citizens.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

DR-CONGO: '' The Fall of Goma'': Why Rwanda-backed M23 captured Goma?

Goma has fallen. This is the first time that the city of Goma has fallen to Rwanda-backed rebels since foreign occupying armies officially pulled out under peace deals at the end of the most recent 1998-2003 war.

A confidential report by the UN Security Council's Group of Experts, says Rwanda's defence minister, James Kabarere, is personally running the M23 rebellion. After wars in 1990's, Rwanda withdrew troops from Dr-Congo in 2002. But Rwanda's security apparatus has continued to project its military, political and economic interests across the border, using armed groups as proxies, such as M23.

There is a complex stew of economic, nationalistic and ethnic drivers as to why Rwanda has been trying very hard to invade and remain in eastern Dr-Congo. The fall of Goma is clear example of that.

Ethnic reasons

Rwanda has invaded Dr-Congo three times in a decade. The first time was shortly after the 1994 Rwandan-genocide, which led to the fall of  Mobutu, then two more times between 1998-2003. In all these occasions Rwanda has argued that it was chasing out the Hutus in Dr-Congo.

All these conflicts were broadly linked to 1994 Rwandan genocide that saw Hutu soldiers and militia kill around 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis in 100 days. After the genocide, many of the Hutu militia fighters fled to camps in Dr-Congo.

Rwanda, now led by President Paul Kagame's Tutsi-dominated government, claims the Hutu fighters sheltering in Congo remain a threat and it has a right to focus on security, especially as the Congolese state has failed to pacify the border area.

The United Nations reports that the Hutu rebel FDLR force hiding in eastern Congo, believed to number as many as 15,000 a decade ago, has been reduced to less than 2,000 fighters. From January to April 2012, the FDLR Hutu fighters were no longer in eastern of Dr-Congo. That's the reason why Rwanda has changed its strategy in invading Dr-Congo.

A brand new rebellion needed to take place in order to pursue Rwanda's economic and political interests in  eastern Dr-Congo. In April this year, the M23 was born with new ideology to maintain Rwanda's presence in Dr-Congo, since the ethnic-reasons were out-dated.

Economic reasons

Rwanda, whose army first entered Congo in 1996 and fought in two wars there, claims it is being made a scapegoat for the Congo government's and wider world's failures to bring peace to the vast, mineral-rich former Belgian colony at the heart of Africa. Since then, Rwanda has maintained covert capacity to shape events in the eastern Dr -Congo.They never let go. Festering eastern Dr-Congo conflicts, subsequently the fall of Goma, is eroding of Rwanda's biggest assets: its status as model of post-conflict development lauded by world leaders and business executives.

Dr-Congo's geography of vast, impenetrable rainforest has long steered its eastern trade away from its own distant capital Kinshasa and towards Rwanda's much closer capital Kigali. Dr-Congo's boderlands are separated from Kinshasa by more than 1,500 km. There are no year-round roads and a decrepit aviation sector.

By contrast, traders in Goma, lakeside capital of Congo's North Kivu province, can cross the Rwandan border and drive just a few hours on gleaming highways to its capital Kigali, where a modern airport boast flights to far-flung hubs like Dubai and Singapore.

Rwanda's President, Paul Kagamé, sees the chaotic Dr-Congo's infrastructure as a getaway to ecoonomic expansion for his small country. Most of the Rwanda's booming economic depend largely by the smuggling of Goma's natural resources, enough reasons to back the M23 in eastern Dr-Congo.

Political and Military reasons

Rwanda now has one of the best armies in Africa, and has not suffered an attack from Hutu rebels in Dr-Congo for about a decade. Rwandan President, Paul kagame, is determined to sustain the loyalty of his powerful military, which sees opportunities in Dr-Congo's eastern riches.

The fall of Goma laid bare the weakness of the Dr-Congo's government army, despite millions of dollars in foreign aid. Ultimately the success of Rwandan-rebellion of M23 in eastern Dr-Congo has at least as much to do with Dr-Congo's weakness as Rwanda's strength.

The M23's rapid expansion is a clear sign it must be helped from abroad, It's no longer a sceret that M23 is just another finger of Rwandan army but there is more to it. The M23 rebels numbered just a few hundred in April 2012 and were surrounded by the Dr-Congo's government forces.
Since then, their ranks have swelled to 1,500. They were wearing crisp camouflage uniforms and brandish gleaming new guns and grenades which they claim they captured from fleeing Dr-Congo's government troops.

UN reports have documented lucrative smuggling rackets ferrying coltan, tin, gold and tungsten ferried across to Rwanda. At the height of Dr-Congo's last war in 1999, profits from eastern Congo's mineral fields contributed some $320 million to Rwanda's defence budget.

The inactivity and failure of UN peacekeepers in Dr-Congo (MONUSCO) to protect the civilian and Goma are clear signs that Dr-Congo is victim of the International Community's sinister plan to balkanize the eastern Dr-Congo's region.

During the Rwandan's 1994 genocide, the UN peacekeepers in Rwanda, then, played the same game as more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu perished. The French government expressed frustration with the UN peacekeepers, who gave up defending the city after Congo's army retreated. Paris called it ''absurd'' that the UN force did not protect Goma. Indeed, the UN peacekeepers failed to implement cease-fire, failed to stop mineral smuggling, in some cases, they were themselves involved in smuggling weapons and mineral, mostly failed to protect civilian.

Now that Goma has finally fallen to Rwanda-backed rebellion, the withdrawal of Dr-Congo civilian officials and troops left the void behind that could not be filled alone. There are unconfirmed reports that M23 are to remain in Goma for the next 4 to 5 years, controlling all the city natural resources.

It is indeed sad to admit it, the fall of Goma is a step closer to the accomplishment of the International Community's sinister plan to balkanizing the eastern Dr-Congo.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
Author of : The Political Game of the Weakest Link

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

EU:'' Budget increase'': D. Cameron's stubborness threatens UK's EU future

EU heads of state and government are meeting tomorrow for talks on the 27 nations' club budget, set to cover the years from 2014 to 2020. And Cameron, the British prime minister, has threatened to torpedo negotiations if the €1 trillion spending plan submitted by the European Commission isn't drastically cut.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron has so far maintained his stance on the issue, despite his failure  to win over some EU net contributors nations on his side. He was visited by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then he travelled to Italy and Netherlands, but failed to impress.

In all these occasions, he mumbled out the same words that he has been saying. He said: '' At a time when governments have to make difficult decisions about spending, we cannot go on increasing EU spending. The EU has got to start living within its means''.  But others EU net contributors are not listening to his tune.

Unless he changes his mind ahead of tomorrow EU budget increase meeting in Brussels, which is unlikely, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, risks to look like an unpopular naughty kid cast aside or isolated by his friends in playground.

In December, Cameron vetoed a European economic and fiscal pact to help the EU's euro-zone countries recover from sovereign debt crises that had cast doubt on the 17 member single currency and this time around, he wants to make negotiations to stop EU budget increase amid economic crises that sicken the EU.

Making negotiations more difficult for David Cameron are signs of growing irritation in Europe over what EU leaders regard as British isolationism and opportunist demands at a time when governments are trying to fix the euro-zone debt crisis.

His unequivocal warning is the product of more than just diplomatic ineptitude. Cameron simply doesn't know what he wants from Europe and lacks a strategy. Nor does he have any idea how Great Britain will be situated within the European Union in two, three or five years down the line. Will the country remain on the cusp as it is now? Will London take additional steps outside of the fold?

Anything is possible, and Britain's erratic position is increasingly becoming an annoyance for the UK's partners on the other side of the Channel.

Cameron's inability to steer the debate in London over the EU shows just how weak the prime minister has become within his own party. And that is good news only for those Britons who want to see their country withdraw from the EU, a category which includes a majority of Cameron's party allies.

Indeed, the more integrated the European club becomes on the Continent, the more Great Britain feels like a gentleman in a swinger club. It's not that the British hate the European Union. But they fear the inevitability with which the Brussels beast is mutating into a monster, and they fear being eaten by that monster.

Cameron is doing nothing to combat those fears. And his strategy of inaction could very well lead to a situation in which the UK stumbles out of the EU accidentally. Britain's ongoing assessment of EU integration in the search for elements it would rather do without is both undignified and dangerous. The rest of the club should refuse to play London's game.

Europe lives from the passion of its members and from their willingness to accept responsibility and obligation. Radical egotists who are only half-heartedly engaged have the ability to destroy the entire project.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

 

Friday, 16 November 2012

ISRAEL: '' Operation Pillar of Defense'': B. Netanyahu's electoral and political agenda

Israel's "Pillar of Defense" operation is underway in Gaza amid the biggest flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence in four years. Israel launched the operation in response to days of rocket fire out of the Hamas-led Gaza Strip, kicking it off on Wednesday with more than 50 airstrikes and the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, Hamas' top military commander.

On Thursday, Palestinian militants responded by launching nearly 150 more rockets into Israel, killing three people and firing into the Tel Aviv area. Late in the day, ground troops were massing near the border, and the government suggested that it was considering a ground invasion. This would mark a clear escalation of the conflict, which has reportedly already left at least 22 Palestinians and three Israelis killed and nearly 200 wounded in its first three days.

The Israeli offensive is fraught with political risks. Israel could have counted on Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's former leader, not to intervene in a conflict in the neighboring country. But now Mohammad Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has moved into the presidential palace in Cairo. He may come out in support of Hamas, which shares roots with the Muslim Brotherhood. He will also have to take into account all the people demonstrating against the Israeli offensive on Gaza in the mosques and on the streets

On Friday, thousands across Egypt demonstrated against Israel's attacks. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi denounced the attacks as "blatant aggression against humanity" and said Cairo "would not leave Gaza on its own,". Likewise, Egyptian Prime Minister Hesaham Kandil was in Gaza City as a sign of solidarity, where he toured a hospital and condemned Israel's actions.

The conflict poses a test of Mursi's commitment to Egypt 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which the West views as the bedrock of Middle East peace. The Muslim brotherhood, which brought him to power in an election after the downfall of pro-Western Hosni Mubarak, has called for a ''Day of Rage'' in Arab capitals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu primarily launched the offensive in order to bolster support for his Likud party in advance of the parliamentary election scheduled for January 22. There are concerns that the fighting could threaten peace between Israel and Egypt and foster even more instability in the Middle East.

It's easy to have sympathy for the fact that no one in Israel is mourning Ahmed Jabari. The murdered de facto commander of Hamas' military wing taught his enemies the meaning of fear.
Targeted assassinations violate international law. Nonetheless, on the domestic political stage, there is much to be gained from the death of Israeli's archenemy…. But the attack on Ahmed Jabari led to an immediate escalation of the conflict and is strategically counterproductive for a government that wants to protect its people.

Israel has also paid a high price on the diplomatic level. Egypt has already recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv. The government in Cairo, which is trying to mediate between the two fronts, is angry…. But as terrible as the consequences of Jabari's assassination might prove to be for Israel, the pay-off for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come in the elections in two months' time.

Going beyond justified Israeli security interests, the 'Pillar of Defense' operation is a targeted attack on Hamas. The question is what Israel hopes it will achieve right now…. Its current heavy-handedness has primarily one purpose: There is an election campaign underway in Israel.

The government in Jerusalem has made it clear that it will not shy away from a ground offensive if need be … but the only clear purpose of such a brutal mission would be to put a permanent end to Hamas. However, it's far too late for that. In contrast to the last war (in December 2008), Hamas now has Egypt's leadership behind it. So the attack on Gaza automatically carries a risk of regional spillover. As targeted as the launch of this military operation might have been, its continuation has already veered out of control.

War is good for a hard-liner like Benjamin Netanyahu. Even a modest military engagement can win him votes…. When it comes to taking a tough, if not brutal course of action against the Palestinians, the Israelis have more faith in Netanyahu than in any of his rivals.

In this respect, it isn't surprising that he should emphasize this quality by bombing the Gaza Strip again in the run-up to the coming election and ordering the murder of a senior Hamas leader. He sees civilian victims and international law as arguments for rather than obstacles to his re-election.

Netanyahu and his collation partners are equally indifferent to the fact that the military strikes weaken Hamas at a time when it is gradually becoming more moderate, thereby paving the way for even more radical groups affiliated with al-Qaida.

In fact, this benefits Netanyahu because any new outbreaks of terror provide him with more reasons to oppose an independent Palestinian state. However, his policy is highly dangerous for Israel, the Palestinians and, indeed, the entire region, which is regrouping in the wake of the Arab Spring. It could damage relations between the Arab and Western worlds for decades to come.

Benjamin Netanyahu has politically calculated the timing of the Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip. By attacking Gaza strip, Benjamin Netanyahu hopes also to amount pressure to the International Community to stop the Palestinians'efforts at the United Nations to obtain a General Assembly vote at the end of the month granting observer status to the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This political calculation of Benjamin Netanyahu is nothing more than just '' a slap in the face of peace talkk between '' Israel and Palestine. These attacks on Gaza Strip would at the end the day do more harm than good,

Just as in late 2008, Israel's demands that Hamas and other militants stop firing rockets at southern towns appeared to be being ignored, and the fire was increasing.
The last Gaza war, involving a three-week long Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year period of 2008-2009, left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilian, and killed 13 Israelis....but  no progress whatsoever in peace talks.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photos: Dead-Civilian in Gaza Strip, photo AFP
             Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, Wikipédia.
 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

EUROPE: '' Banking Union'': The Proposal divides the member states

Europe's diplomatic sprint to establish a single bank supervisor stumbled on Tuesday as EU finance ministers restated objections to fundamental elements of the proposal and raised doubts over reaching a deal in December.

Behind almost 10 weeks behind the scenes negotiations about banking union, the discussions laid bare stark differences between several member states over a proposal that is billed as plank of Europe's response to the sovereign debt crisis.

A German -ler blod demanded ministers to concentrate on getting the proposal right, rather than obsssessing with a fixed timetable, while Sweden said its serious concern might only be resolved with a change to EU treaties.

Squabbling over the powers of the European Central Bank as a supervisor, the rights of non-eurozone countries within and outside the system, legal constraints and the timetable for implementation have cast a shadow over talks.

While some technical progress has been made-particularly on a means to involve non-eurozone countries-Tuesday's discussion in Brussels highlighted that many core problems have yet to be overcome.

Emerging from four hours of discussion on the supervision plan, Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner, responsible for the proposal, insisted that a deal was ''possible but difficult''. But in a sign of his frustrations, he reminded finance ministers that their heads of government has asked '' not once but twice'' for a swift deal.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks remains Germany's insistence that the ECB's responsibilities as focused on big banks-a narrower remit that France finds unacceptable, given the regime will cover all its banks but only a minoruty of German ones.

In its most explicit intervention on the subject yet, the ECB made it clear on Tuesday that  it would oppose any limitations on its legal authority over all eurozone banks. Vitor Constancio, ECB vice-president, said: ''We would be against any sort of two-tier system''.

European officials have adjusted the governance arrangement to give those non-eurozone countries that join more effective influence, even though ultimate decisions remain with the ECB governing board.

These concessions failed to appease Sweden, which said the proposal was ''far away'' from being ready for a deal in December. Anders Borg, Sweden's finance minister said : '' Either you must change the treaty so that is clear every member is treated equitably or you need to move it outside of the ECB''.

Both options would delay implementation of the plan by months or years. While Austria supported Sweden's position and Germany expressed sympathy, Ireland led objections to opening a treaty change  process that would be politically troublesome and potentially trigger a referendum.

Officials insisted the talks were on track and pointed to modest shifts in position from a handful of member states. But several finance ministers made clear that they were in no hurry to finish the deal.

''We should not be fixed to dates'', said Luc Frieden, Luxembourg's finance minister. '' If it takes three months longer, it's no problem''.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Monday, 12 November 2012

GREECE: '' 2013 austerity budget'': Fresh cuts approved Today

 

The Greek parliament approved its long-delayed 2013 austerity budget early Monday, allowing it to unblock a new tranche of EU and IMF credit without which the country will go bankrupt. Its eurozone will now have to agree to the plan.
 
The budget passed by a 167-128 vote in the 300-member Parliament. It came days after a separate bill of deep spending cuts and tax hikes for the next two years squeaked through with a narrow majority following severe disagreements among the three parties in the governing coalition.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledged that the spending cuts will be the last Greeks have to endure.

“Just four days ago, we voted the most sweeping reforms ever in Greece,” he said. “The sacrifices (in the earlier bill and the budget) will be the last. Provided, of course, we implement all we have legislated.

Greece has done what it was asked to do and now is the time for the creditors to make good on their commitments.

Athens says that with the passage of the two bills, the next loan installment, worth €31.5 billion (about $40 billion), should be disbursed. Without it, the government has said it will run out of cash on Friday, when €5 billion ($6.35 billion) worth of treasury bills mature.

Finance ministers from the 17-nation eurozone are meeting in Brussels later Monday, with Greece high on the agenda. However, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has indicated it is unlikely that the ministers will decide on the disbursement at that meeting.

“We all ... want to help Greece, but we won’t be put under pressure,” Schaeuble told the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

Schaeuble said the so-called troika of debt inspectors likely won’t deliver their report on Greece’s reform program by Monday. The creditors also want to see what the debt inspectors have to say about Greece’s debt sustainability.

But speaking minutes before the vote, Samaras pledged the bailout funds would be disbursed “on time.”
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras also stressed the precariousness of Greece’s cash reserves, with the treasury bills due on Friday.

“Without the help of the European Central Bank, the refunding of these treasury bills from the banking system will lead the private sector to complete suffocation,” Stournaras said.

Disbursement of the next installment is essential “because the state’s available funds are marginal, although better than expected because the 2012 budget is being executed better than expected,” he said, adding that the funds are needed to pay salaries and pensions, as well as for the import of medicines, fuel and food.

Hours before the vote, 15,000 people converged outside Parliament in a peaceful demonstration. The crowd was far smaller than the 80,000-strong crowd which protested last Wednesday’s austerity bill vote. That demonstration degenerated into violent clashes between riot police and hundreds of protesters.

Greece is mired in a deep recession heading into its sixth year, with more than a quarter of Greeks unemployed. Battered by a mountain of debt and a gaping budget deficit, Greece has been relying on international bailout loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010.

Alexis Tsipras, the head of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition party, or Syriza, insisted the new austerity cuts are unfair and would leave Greeks unable to buy essentials such as food, fuel and medicine this winter.

“This is why we say you are dangerous for this country,” Tspiras said, addressing the government. “You are incapable of negotiating.”

Tspiras promised to repeal the austerity laws and negotiate “on an equal footing” with the country’s creditors if he were to come to power.

In an opinion poll published in the Sunday newspaper To Vima, 66 percent opposed the new austerity measures, but 52 percent said the government, which emerged from June elections, should be given more time to handle the economic crisis.

The poll showed Syriza, which placed second in the June elections, ahead of the coalition leader, the center-right New Democracy party, by nearly 3 percentage points. The extreme right-wing nationalist Golden Dawn party continued its strong showing with more than 10 percent of respondents preferring it.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photo: Antonis Samaras, Greek Prime Minister, Photo Wikipédia.