Tag Archives: European Union

Agnès Poirier and Irish reunification

29 Dec

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Turkey and its Jews: Avlaremoz, the Varlık Vergisi and Şekip Bey, the appropriation of minority capital, Sephardic Jews and Spain

26 Dec

Next time a Turk or Turkey/Islam apologist tells you that progressive, tolerant, cosmopolitan Turkey gave refuge to Jewish intellectuals and scientists persecuted by the Nazis during the 1930s, remind them that a few years later the Turkish Republic imposed an over 100% estate tax — the Varlık Vergisi, also imposed on Greeks and Armenians — on its own Jews, which ruined most and saw many sent to lethal work camps in Anatolia as punishment, where many died.

One voice of protest:

Context: from the massacres of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Lausanne Population Exchange, the various rulings and legal restrictions placed on non-Turkish speakers and non-Muslims following the founding of the Republic, the 1934 Thrace Pogrom against Jews, the estate tax (above), the anti-Greek Pogrom of 1955, the Deportations of Greeks in 1964-65 and the general climate of fear and violence and harassment non-Muslims still live under in contemporary Turkey — the Varlık Vergisi represents just one episode in a process of a massive transfer of capital from non-Muslim to Muslim hands in the 20th century – a transfer which laid the groundwork for late 20th and early 21st century Turkey’s booming (or now not-so-booming) economy.

But history does provide us with some delicious ironies: currently, when Turks need a visa to travel anywhere in Europe or North America — given they could even afford such travel with their steadily plunging Erdo-lira — Turkish Jews can just go and fill out some paperwork at the Spanish consulate and be granted the Spanish citizenship with which they can start a new life in any country in Europe tomorrow! Snag…

And follow Avlaremoz (“Hablaremos” in Ladino, of course) on Twitter; it’s a fascinating, informative account.

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Erdie and the EU: When it would be funny if it weren’t so depressing and worrisome

12 Dec

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Great Macron photo, EU and Turkey

12 Dec

I wish I were as smugly happy about EU decisions on Turkish sanctions.

See: Al Jazeera, “Europe’s stance on Turkey toughens with sanctions, weapons talk.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said by slapping sanctions on Turkey, Europe has shown its ‘capacity to stand firm’ on Ankara [Olivier Hoslet/Pool via Reuters]

If this is what Erdie came away with from the European Union meeting on Turkish sanctions, I don’t think there’s much to be happy about: EU must discard pressure from Greece, Greek Cypriots, says Erdoğan

Maybe he’ll be a bigger jerk over next few months and Europe can then take a more serious position on slapping his irresistibly slappable mug.

Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

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Nostalgia for Yugo-land — and curses on those who destroyed it

6 Dec

When tomorrow or the next day or the day after that all the statelets that were once part of the noble — and largely and movingly successful — experiment in south Slav unity come together again as EU nation-states…then we’ll have to give posterity an answer when it asks what all the blood was for.

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Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece on Twitter

17 Nov

And here some serious shade gets thrown Greece’s way. :)

Check out whole thread here.

And see full story here on Balkan Insight:

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (right) and Northern Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in Sofia on November 10. Photo: EPA-EFE/BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE

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Montenegrins are such fair-weather Serbs it’s ridiculous

7 Feb

When it’s convenient they are; when it’s not, they’re not.

From DTT-NET English:

Podgorica, 07 February 2020, dtt-net.com – An EU official today called Montenegrin government and country’s Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) to enter talks for implementation of the religion law which the second protests fearing the state will retake ownership of many properties and sites the church manages, as Podgorica is undergoing a process of separating its church from the Serbia and Russia backed church.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

NYer: “Can Babies Learn to Love Vegetables?”

19 Nov

Full article from Burkhard Bilger.

191125_r35463On any given day, American children are more likely to eat dessert than plants. Makers of baby food face a conundrum: If it sells, it’s probably not best for babies. If it’s best for babies, it probably won’t sell.  Photo illustration by Horacio Salinas for The New Yorker

Yeah, and anything else for that fact. Just make them eat what’s on the table with no options. Watch how they’ll start to love their broccoli once that’s all there is. We’re the first civilization in history which has made such a fuss about what children like or don’t like, and have created a civilization full of adults who still eat like 10yr olds.

And in the process we’re destroying centuries of ancient culinary traditions.  See one of my first ever posts from this blog:  Chitterlings…and mageiritsa

viscera1mageiritsa-den-10-may-20091

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Macron: «᾽Ιδού ὁ νυμφίος ἔρχεται…» Not happy with his Balkan policy, but he’s the only man on the world political landscape today with anything even remotely resembling a redeeming vision.

10 Nov

The future of the EU — Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead

America is turning its back on the European project. Time to wake up, the French president tells The Economist

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During the hour-long interview, conducted in his gilt-decorated office at the Elysée Palace in Paris on October 21st, the president argues that it is high time for Europe to “wake up”. He was asked whether he believed in the effectiveness of Article Five, the idea that if one NATO member is attacked all would come to its aid, which many analysts think underpins the alliance’s deterrent effect. “I don’t know,” he replies, “but what will Article Five mean tomorrow?”

NATO, Mr Macron says, “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” And America, in his view, shows signs of “turning its back on us,” as it demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria last month, forsaking its Kurdish allies.

In President Donald Trump, Europe is now dealing for the first time with an American president who “doesn’t share our idea of the European project”, Mr Macron says. This is happening when Europe is confronted by the rise of China and the authoritarian turn of regimes in Russia and Turkey. Moreover, Europe is being weakened from within by Brexit and political instability.

This toxic mix was “unthinkable five years ago,” Mr Macron argues. “If we don’t wake up […] there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply.”

Mr Macron’s energetic recent diplomatic activity has drawn a great deal of interest abroad, and almost as much criticism. He has been accused of acting unilaterally (by blocking EU enlargement in the Western Balkans), and over-reaching (by trying to engineer direct talks between America and Iran). During the interview, however, the president is in a defiant but relaxed mood, sitting in shirt sleeves on the black leather sofa he has installed in the ornate salon doré, where Charles de Gaulle used to work.

The French president pushes back against his critics, for instance arguing that it is “absurd” to open up the EU to new members before reforming accession procedures, although he adds that he is ready to reconsider if such conditions are met.

Mr Macron’s underlying message is that Europe needs to start thinking and acting not only as an economic grouping, whose chief project is market expansion, but as a strategic power. That should start with regaining “military sovereignty”, and re-opening a dialogue with Russia despite suspicion from Poland and other countries that were once under Soviet domination. Failing to do so, Mr Macron says, would be a “huge mistake”.

Dig Deeper

Cover leader (November 7th): “A continent in peril”
Briefing (November 7th): A president on a mission
Transcript: Emmanuel Macron in his own words

The Intelligence podcast: “He talked about Europe in almost apocalyptic terms”— Macron’s interview

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Guardian: “Catalonia’s separatists were jailed for sedition, but brought down by hubris” — Giles Tremlett

10 Nov

It could have been very different. But the 2017 declaration of independence threw away the campaign’s moral advantage.

Giles_Tremlett,_LGiles Tremlett

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‘Those now in jail will be hailed as martyrs to their cause and become an inspiration for future generations of separatists.’ Pro-independence protesters hold Catalan flags in Barcelona. Photograph: Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images

[My emphases throughout]

Some things are impossible. Catalan independence is currently one of them. The stiff jail sentences handed down to the leaders of the separatist campaign that peaked in 2017 with a banned referendum, police violence and a fudged declaration of independence make that clearer than ever.

There are huge practical obstacles to independence, starting with the many hurdles written into Spain’s constitution. Overcoming these requires massive support in Catalonia itself; but the separatist leaders who orchestrated a head-on collision with the law never had anything like that. The jail sentences are for sedition, but their real problem is hubris.

That was already obvious on the streets of Barcelona and elsewhere when a unilateral proclamation of independence in the Catalan parliament on 27 October 2017 changed exactly nothing. It was, indeed, the day that an otherwise peaceful and often remarkable separatist campaign derailed itself.

A decision by the separatist Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, to flee the country only served to underline that. Now living in Belgium, he was not among those sentenced on Monday, though an international arrest warrant has now been issued. The independence campaign embraced the tactics of civil disobedience, where people who deliberately flout the law know they may go to jail. This is often a key part of the process, since it provokes the outrage that brings change. The nine men and women sentenced to between nine and 13 years of prison have stuck honourably to that tradition. Puigdemont clearly has not.

Those now in jail will be hailed as martyrs to their cause and become an inspiration for future generations of separatists. In court, they were unrepentant. “I would do it all again,” said Jordi Cuixart [ok…], who received a nine-year sentence. As protesters reacted to the sentences by blockading Barcelona’s airport, it was not clear whether calls to avoid violence would be respected. After the events of 2017, the police response will be watched closely.

Yet the fury felt today by Catalan separatists is not shared in the rest of Spain, nor, more crucially, does it extend very far in the rest of Europe – where they had hoped to provoke a sudden flowering of sympathy. Their campaign, in other words, has failed. The only visible result is a divided Catalan society where explicit support for independence remains below 50%.

It could all have ended very differently. Separatists do best when, like the Brexiters who they sometimes resemble, they can claim to be victims of the status quo. In that sense, the police charges during the banned referendum of 1 October 2017 were a gift. The sight of helmeted, baton-wielding officers beating up peaceful voters played directly into their hands. The Spanish state looked, and behaved, like an ogre.

Separatism could have built on that. Instead, it threw its moral advantage away with the independence declaration.

The court sentences concentrate on the referendum and are harsher than expected, and some will argue about the definition of “sedition”, but there is no doubt that the law was deliberately broken. The Catalan parliament does not have the power to declare independence. Nor can it unilaterally call a binding referendum on the subject. In that sense, it is no different to, say, the Scottish parliament. When politicians break the law and cross lines set by the constitution, the courts tell them so. Just as Boris Johnson cannot arbitrarily suspend the Westminster parliament, so Puigdemont could not hold a referendum. And unlike Johnson (so far), his government ignored court rulings – and went ahead with the vote anyway.

Declaring independence ramped up the level of defiance. It was also dishonest, since it was based on a referendum in which only one side campaigned. “Remain in Spain” voters mostly boycotted the illegal vote and, inevitably, the “leave” side won. That is not a solid basis on which to announce an epoch-defining, existential change to the lives of all 7.6 million Catalans.

3500‘When politicians break the law and cross lines set by the constitution, the courts tell them.’ Carles Puigdemont. Photograph: François Lenoir/Reuters

Spanish right-wingers are today gloating over the court’s sentencing. Yet they are part of the problem. The anti-Catalan rhetoric that has accompanied their periods in power has only served to boost separatism. And even the socialist left, which talks up the idea of a “pluri-national” Spain, has done little to make Spaniards in other parts of the country proud of the languages and cultures that coexist within it.

[The above is complete bullshit; there is no more decentralized, devolved, regional-cultural-rights-respecting country in Europe.  None.  See: “As prime minister, I refuse to let Catalan separatists undermine Spanish democracy” – Pedro Sánchez]

Paradoxically, an obvious solution is to hold a proper referendum. This would force Catalan voters to face reality. Just the idea of being expelled from the EU would probably be enough to secure a resounding victory for remain. So why won’t Spain do that? The country’s written constitution makes both a referendum and independence theoretically possible, in a process controlled from Madrid. In practical terms, however, it hands a blocking vote to 40% of the senate. Even when the left is in government, the right normally commands that. It will never permit a separate Catalonia.

Since independence is possible in theory, but currently impossible in practice, some separatists may conclude that only violence will achieve their aims. Police last month arrested a group that was allegedly planning to mark this decision with bomb attacks. That is the worst mistake separatists could make. At the first sight of bloodshed, support would likely shrink so far that their cause could take decades to recover.

Their only hope is to keep following the advice of the jailed regional MP and ex-president of the grassroots Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Sànchez. “Let’s express ourselves without fear and move forward, nonviolently, towards freedom,” he said. That is a very long journey.

Giles Tremlett is a journalist and author based in Madrid

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