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[personal profile] kiaa
Here they are, the two negotiating sides on the Brexit. The folks on the left are the EU representatives, each prepared with a file of documents. On the right side, the British, gazing into the nothingness, empty-handed. Maybe they've memorized all details so they don't need any paper in front of them? Or maybe they're eco-minded and they're trying to save paper? Heh? All I know is, this picture pretty much sums up the whole situation: the EU has a clear vision of what it wants the Brexit to look like - in the meantime, the British side has no specifics on their side. You think those are normal negotiations? Well, think again.

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[personal profile] dreamville_bg

EU's hypocrisy has come to the fore once more, what with the recent outcry from a number of Central and East European countries against the double standards in many products, and not just food products, that are being sold at one quality in West Europe, while its lesser quality versions are being dumped onto "second-hand", "New" Europe for the same price or even more:

"Bulgaria and Romania have joined an outcry against multinational food companies, accused of selling lower quality products in Eastern Europe compared to those offered in the Western supermarkets."

In a nutshell, the same product, produced by the same company, advertised in the same way and supposedly being produced in the same manner with the same ingredients, has turned out to be quite different in, say, Germany, Austria and France on one side, and Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania on the other.

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There's hardly a leader or politician left in the West Balkans, and "even wider" (as the Macedonians like to say), who's not willing to shout to Brussels: "Give me my European perspective back!" Indeed, there's wide-spread criticism to EU's behavior to our region coming from all countries in the vicinity. What's more, there are also warnings already. Warnings that if the Euro bureaucrats keep turning the other way to the recent events in Europe's so called "powder keg", Europe could soon be served a whole portion of new conflicts, problems, crises, and even hot wars in one form or another.

That's the context we could use for interpreting a short remark from the other day, made to Brussels by Albanian prime minister Edi Rama. The same Edi Rama who's been rumored to be the patron of the so called "Tirana platform", directing three of the ethnic Albanian political parties in Macedonia, which is being used as argument by the Macedonian politicians to resist the temptation of forming a government together with the Albanians. So, Edi Rama said the other day that if the EU doesn't give a clear sign for a European path to Albania, he wouldn't rule out his country uniting with Kosovo.

Tirana and Pristina have craved such an outcome for a while, although their respective politicians have refrained from stating it openly so far. They simply don't need to. The notion is just ingrained in the mind of every Albanian, wherever they were born. But pronounced in this open manner, Rama's threat was inevitably going to, or indeed, perhaps was meant to cause a sharp reaction from Belgrade. Serbia still views Kosovo as part of itself, unilaterally removed from its territory with the support of the international community and mainly the US, who've done this mostly out of geopolitical expedience, rather than sympathy for the big almond eyes of the Albanians (the latter have caused all sorts of trouble in Europe through the years - arms, drugs and human trafficking, and other sort of organized crime).

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For centuries, Britain and Spain have quarreled for a rock at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. After the Brexit, this row has sparked up with new force. We've even heard mentions of the word "war". So how real is this prospect?

Just days after the UK started the Brexit procedure, there's a huge scandal brewing over Gibraltar's future. This British overseas territory, carved off the Spanish coast, will have the full support of the British government, PM Theresa May has vowed. The UK has promised to seek the "best possible scenario" from the Brexit negotiations, and this obviously includes Gibraltar. Since most Gibraltarians voted against the Brexit, this has prompted the EU (mostly Spain) to make bold statements about possible plans of granting a special status to residents of the rock when it comes to EU/UK relations. Which of course was seen as a provocation in London, and drew the predicted hostile reaction. Ms May said Britain wouldn't allow Gibraltar to pass under control from another country, seeing blatant territorial claims from Spain.

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It's not just the Two Speeds Europe plan. My focus here is actually on product quality, or rather, the double standard that exists there in the EU:

And it's not just about food. Shampoos, laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, toothpastes, you name it. They all have inferior quality in Eastern Europe in a comparison with the same brands which are sold in Western Europe. And there is no reasonable justification for this.

Europe's blatant double standards )
[identity profile]
Exactly a quarter of a century ago, in a small Dutch town called Maastricht, the European community was renamed to the European Union. The beginning of this union became a tale that everyone kept telling their kids as an example of economic and political success. But the downsides of that success that few people used to talk about until recently, which remained largely ignored for the last quarter of a century, are now threatening the future of the union more and more.

In the first years after Maastricht, these flaws might have been too difficult to spot, granted. But they remained there to linger, never to be addressed, and it took a lot of time for them to come to the surface and start threatening the unity of the union in a noticeable way. That time has come now.

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The waiting is over. Britain is now clearly formulating a road-map towards its divorce with Europe. And that is quite something. Because for a long time there was no clarity about the Brexit: how it would happen, when it would happen, and who would do it. And what the consequences would be. For too long, too many people were having false illusions that the Britons would somehow change their minds. Or that Britain would somehow manage to keep its place in the European market. Well, the EU's response was No. Juncker had said even before the referendum that the UK would have to either take it all or leave it all. That was a warning and a treat: there would be no compromise, "deserting traitors" would not be welcome.

Now we can sense some Schadenfreude in the statements coming from Brussels. Whenever the plunging pound is mentioned, the general mood is that this is deserved punishment for Britain. Perhaps Brussels wants to discipline the other 27 members this way, but in fact it's only giving ammo to more Euro-skepticism, and harming itself economically. For example, it is in the interest of the German exporters to have access to the British market without trade restrictions, because this is a very important market for them. 1/5 of all German cars go to Britain, after all.

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Greetings, comrades! Here's a recent story that made me fume. See, we've all become perfectly aware by now that the EU has been under increasing pressure from hostile Russian propaganda, which threatens to undermine its relations with its partners, to block important decisions, and generally damage the credibility of the major European institutions by instilling fear and a sense of insecurity among the EU citizens. The purpose is to cause discord within the EU, and put its democratic values in question - and the means that the Russian government is using to achieve that are various, from think-tanks, to multilingual TV channels (RT), to pseudo information agencies and multimedia sources (Sputnik), trans-border social groups and religious organizations, to social media and internet trolls, and of course funding political parties (mostly Euroskeptic and right-wing) and populist movements.

That's basically what the part about Russia in the EU's recent report on Strategic Communication With A View To Counteracting Propaganda Against It By Third Countries says. This EU resolution only has an advisable character and doesn't impose anything on anybody, instead it recommends urgent measures for countering hostile propaganda, without prescribing bans on free speech or any such thing. All it does is identify a problem, and propose possible solutions within the law.

Cue the Russian response )
[identity profile]

Now that Farage has helped ruin one country in the long run, and has instantaneously stepped away from responsibility, sitten on his couch with a bowl of popcorn and started watching the whole thing unravel with delight from a safe distance, turns out he may've misspend... wait for it... EU money to fund his self-destructive Brexit campaign. GASP at the hypocrisy!

And this is the guy whose entire platform rested upon the notion that immigrants cheat large amounts of money out of the UK by making false claims, such as claiming money for a large number of children but refusing to provide the evidence that they're even parents. It's the same guy who makes huge amounts of expenses for homes in Brussels, claims for utilities, in his turn unable to provide evidence - EU taxpayer money to fund his lavish lifestyle while giving heat to the EU for its excessive spending. And in the same breath he goes out and diverts money from the EU to fund his campaign opposing the EU. If this isn't corruption, then I don't know what is.

But that`s not all! )
[identity profile]
While everyone is bickering about TTIP and its imperialist purpose regarding Europe, there's another agreement that's gradually gaining support among the traitorous EU leaders: the Canada-EU free-trade agreement, called CETA.

Just like the US deal, CETA contains a new legal system, open only to foreign corporations and investors - in fact, the general suspicion is that this agreement is the backdoor for US corporations to enter Europe the "other way", posing as Canadian-registered capitals.

A closer look at CETA reveals some alarming facts. Under the CETA stipulations, should the German government for example make a decision, say, to outlaw dangerous chemicals, improve food safety or put cigarettes in plain packaging, a Canadian (read: US) company can sue the German government for "unfairness". Corporate courts have conveniently been stipulated in the agreement, of course, their power overruling that of national legislations. And what does "fairness" mean? Simply they can't make as much profit as they expected. The "trial" would be held at those special tribunals, unelected by the people, unappointed by the people's lawful representatives, overseen and responsible only to corporate lawyers and their corporate overlords.

Beautiful, isn't it?

FYI, almost all EU governments are now actively pushing for CETA (why am I not surprised?). Mine traded its last shreds of national sovereignty by taking the bait that Canada would remove the visas for our citizens in exchange. The only resistance came from Wallonia, the French-speaking portion of Belgium, which, according to Belgian law, can veto decisions of national importance for Belgium - hence, Belgium is the last obstacle to this power-grab. And the EU is pressuring Belgium very fiercely to quit being such a pain in the ass. My prediction is not good: Belgium will cave in, eventually. And Europe will sell its ass to North America sometime within the next couple of months. Congrats!
[identity profile]

If anyone had considered the possibility that the EU could soon create autonomous united military forces of its own, perhaps they had overestimated the ability of the Brussels bureaucrats to act swiftly and resolutely. They might've also underestimated Britain's willingness to fiercely defend their national interest. Despite all the political talk about an all-European army and the informal meeting of the EU leaders last month, real action on the issue has boiled down to modest measures, compared to Juncker's loudly proclaimed intentions.

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While we're about populists, here's the case of Orban's Hungary. He's been trying to assert his "unique" role in Europe for a while (we've talked about this recently here), and now he staged a referendum that he was sure he'd win. The issue was the migration policy that he argued was imposed by Brussels upon the rest of Europe against the will of the people. Although hardly any refugees had entered Hungary at all. But still, he made this into a "thing", and made his countrymen vote on it.

There were jokes before the vote by the anti-Orban circles, saying a Hungarian is more likely to encounter an UFO than an actual refugee. There were calls for boycotting the referendum (a less than 50% turnout would mean the vote would be invalid).

Well, both Orban and his opponents succeeded in a way. He won the referendum by 98%, but largely because 55% of the eligible voters decided to stay home. So the Yes camp won the referendum, but technically, the referendum failed. Now both Orban can boast of the result and do some chest-thumping and try to assert more positions on major EU issues like migration; but also the Brussels bureaucrats can sigh with relief and probably even rejoice a little because more than half of the Hungarian people have turned their back on Orban.

But don't get me wrong. Most Hungarians are clearly against the current EU migration policy. This should have become clear to Brussels, and those guys better be taking notes, and adjust their approach. On the other hand, the majority of Hungarians obviously realize that this referendum was not so much about the refugees, as much as about Orban. He's evidently trying to keep his base active, and make this about himself. Well, it didn't work. Or in his mind, maybe it did. Kindasorta.

One thing is for sure. Europe needs an extensive, open discussion on the matter of migration. The way decisions are currently being made, and then sent over to the populace, is intransparent, undemocratic, and runs counter to the very "principles" the EU has professed. And, unless this changes soon, more populists like Orban will be gaining ground at the political scene.
[identity profile]
Britain will veto EU army, says Defence Secretary

OK, here's the deal. For two decades everyone in the EU has been talking about the need to improve cooperation in defense. Some limited success has been achieved in that regard. For instance, some military units have been created, although they've never been engaged in actual military action. Cooperation in the area of air transport is also improving, although it still includes only 7 countries at this point. It's evident that there's much to work on. It's a fact that the EU member states combined have more firepower and financial resource for defense than the US. Their problem is the staggering inefficiency of their joint military. Simply because every country pursues its own agenda.

Today's challenges cause people to feel a crisis of security, and want stronger defense. This is confirmed by the recent success of various populist parties across Europe. And the challenge is not just securing the borders - people actually expect more. Maybe excepting those pacifists who still naively believe that a disarmed, "soft-power" Europe has any future - or the radical nationalists who are against any further European cooperation anyway. Although it's Hungarian populist Victor Orban who is dreaming of a European army. Maybe he imagines it as some sort of strictly Christian (Crusader?) institution? I don't know.

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185 CEOs of the largest US companies have petitioned the major EU leaders to oppose a Brussels decision that Apple should pay well over 14 billion euro of taxes to Ireland, after having used tax-evading techniques. The corporations believe this EC decision is a "self-inflicted wound" and "total political crap" that would hurt the European economies (sounds very TTIP throat-shoving style to me... secret commerce courts, anyone?)

The CEOs of Caterpillar, Xerox, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, Walmart, ExxonMobil, AT&T, GE, JPMoran et all, are citing the supremacy of law, and are saying they oppose unilateral decisions of this sort (the EC decided Apple should pay Ireland the money because it essentially constituted illegal state subsidy for the 2003-2014 period. Merkel has already expressed concern that the decision will affect investments in the EU, but many other EU leaders support the penalty (the French finance minister for instance has said it's "completely legitimate").

The corporations are concerned, concerned I tell ya! )
[identity profile]
Poland's recent undemocratic policies are actually threatening the unity of the EU even more than the Brexit. UK's aspirations to emancipate itself from the rest of Europe could always be contained to some extent by the remaining participants in the European project, by means of their close economic ties. Despite the temporary volatility of the markets in the weeks after the referendum, the EU will likely survive without Britain, and vice versa.

However, it's much less likely that the EU would tolerate the systematic violations of its laws and principles, and the disregard for its values by members who've joined some 10 years ago, their entry having cost the union taking a lot of risks and additional expenses - and are already causing major turbulence in return.

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Another rat deserts the sinking ship:

Nigel Farage resigns: Anger at 'coward' Ukip leader after post-Brexit resignation
Departure compounds fury at Boris Johnson’s decision to not stand in the Tory leadership contest.

"After me, the deluge", Nero famously said. Behold Nigel Farage now, his worthy descendant:

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Fuck off, asshole! )
[identity profile]
The UK won't be sleeping tonight. The British voters are having their say on their country staying or leaving the EU, the last hours of the voting day are expiring as we speak. This is an open thread to follow the news on this crucial vote.

Here are some relevant links with coverage:

BBC -- here
The Guardian -- here
The Wall Street Journal -- here
The Independent -- here

The forecasts have been changing dynamically in the last couple of days, the latest predictions giving the Stay vote the edge. Global stock markets have responded accordingly by rallying in favor of the pound sterling.

More to follow, including final results, reactions and commentary.

EDIT: Defying latest expectations, the Brexit vote has won by a tight 1.5-point margin, unleashing a storm of reactions. Here's a guide for the perplexed.
[identity profile]
Here's the thing. UK's possible exit from the EU could cause an unprecedented shock that's hard to predict, possibly with global consequences.

The question these days is if England would leave the Euro'16 or the EU first. In the former case, it'll be only the football fans who'd suffer - for a while. But that wouldn't be anything unusual: England has often exited big championships early, despite always featuring among the favorites to win trophies. Option 2 would be more damaging, and could cause ripples across the whole world.

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[identity profile]
Obama's visit in Germany last month caused a lot of comments, including questions why it was happening just before the Super-Tuesday in the US primaries. During the meeting, Merkel and Obama vowed to speed up the TTIP negotiations. "We must hurry", Merkel said, arguing that TTIP would be very useful as it would grant higher growth for the German economy, and by extension, to the European economy. People are not convinced, obviously (and that's quite an understatement).

In turn, Obama said he was hoping the agreement would enter parliaments for discussion before the end of his term. Then the two went on to discuss Syria, Ukraine and Libya. Obama again expressed his support for Merkel's immigration policy, saying she was "at the right side of history". All the while, 35+ thousand people protested in Hannover against both the TTIP, Merkel's immigration policies, and Frau Kanzler herself. 'Protesting' being another understatement, by the way.

There is a Grand Game being played here again )
[identity profile]
Greetings, ma'fellow procrastinators politics junkies! Today is the so called Europe Day. Whatever that's supposed to mean. All I know is, it's being commemorated with lots of staged official events in a number of EU member countries. Our cities are no exception. Most of them will illuminate their most prominent landmarks in the colors of the EU flag. There'll be a music and light show at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, at the Municipality Hall in Plovdiv, and the Festival and Congress Center in Varna. Famous dignitaries are going to read "Stories about Europe", including the ambassadors of the major EU countries. The EU flag will be raised at a special ceremony at the Presidency. The President himself will be greeting the Honorable Guard. Etc.

In the meantime, a Reuters poll suggests that almost half of the Europeans want referenda in their respective countries about their future EU membership, fashioned after the Brexit referendum in the UK. The poll included countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Hungary, France and Sweden. And this is happening just a month before the UK referendum. The poll shows that nearly 45% of the respondents want referenda of their own, and about 1/3 want their country to get an opportunity to leave the EU, as they don't like the way it is being run, the way its institutions are being set up, and the disconnect between the ruling elites and the people - the former seemingly ignoring the interests and the voice of their constituents. Especially regarding issues like the trade agreement with the US, and the handling of the refugee crisis.

Some further blabbering )

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Divisive Rhetoric


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