Category - European Union

EU and Balkan leaders hold emergency talks on refugees

Summit comes after three front-line states threatened to close borders if northern EU countries stop accepting refugees.

Al Jazeera, October 25

European Union and Balkan leaders are holding emergency talks on Europe’s refugee crisis amid threats from three front-line states to close their borders if northern EU countries stop accepting refugees.

The summit on Sunday, called by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, groups the heads of 10 EU nations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to the leaders of Albania, Serbia and Macedonia.

The meeting came after Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia on Saturday warned they would not allow themselves to become a “buffer zone” for the tens of thousands of arrivals streaming into Europe.

“All three countries … are ready if Germany and Austria and other countries close their borders […], we will be ready to also close our borders at that very same moment,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said after talks between the three Balkan leaders in Sofia.

Eurozone crosses Rubicon as Portugal’s anti-euro Left banned from power

Constitutional crisis looms after anti-austerity Left is denied parliamentary prerogative to form a majority government

The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, October 23

Portugal has entered dangerous political waters. For the first time since the creation of Europe’s monetary union, a member state has taken the explicit step of forbidding eurosceptic parties from taking office on the grounds of national interest.

Anibal Cavaco Silva, Portugal’s constitutional president, has refused to appoint a Left-wing coalition government even though it secured an absolute majority in the Portuguese parliament and won a mandate to smash the austerity regime bequeathed by the EU-IMF Troika.

He deemed it too risky to let the Left Bloc or the Communists come close to power, insisting that conservatives should soldier on as a minority in order to satisfy Brussels and appease foreign financial markets.

Democracy must take second place to the higher imperative of euro rules and membership.

Novara Media: 4 Things You Need to Know About Portugal’s Political Crisis

A Philosopher Looks at the Syrian Refugee Issue

One of my favorite blogs is Justin Smith. He’s always worth reading but this is particularly good.

One of the memes circling around the French Internet shows the mayor of the town of Roanne telling a huddled group of refugees that they cannot stay, since they are not Christian. “Neither are you,” is the reply.

Yes, some people are so ignorant as to believe that all Syrians are Muslims, but the most relevant clarification is not that some are not, but that that is irrelevant to the refugee crisis.

At the popular level in Europe, there is both dispiriting xenophobia and its opposite, a seemingly unprecedented preparedness to welcome the refugees and to take responsibility for their well-being. State officials have so far tended to play to the interests of the xenophobes, mostly not by expressing outward xenophobia (with plenty of exceptions of course, as with the mayor of Roanne, or with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán), but by classic buck-passing, insisting that the crisis is someone else’s problem. This is particularly the case for the poorer countries of the EU to its south and east, which are of course also the countries that are so placed as to first receive the refugees travelling by land (and, more perilously, by water). The absence of any obvious authority, either at the union-wide level or in each individual member state, reveals, like no other situation has since the EU’s expansion to include former Soviet Bloc states, that transnational body’s utter impotence and irrelevance.

American liberals and progressives love to fawn over the great liberal democracies of northern Europe with their advanced welfare states and their commitment to fair distribution of resources to all citizens. Yet as long as these societies continue to adhere to a sharp political and moral distinction between citizens and outsiders, between those who are in the system and those who are outside of it, what they have accomplished is scarcely any more worthy of praise than the sort of ‘socialism’ we see practiced within major corporations. European social democracies that extend medical care and education to everyone who has theirpapers in order, while expelling irregular migrants in nighttime raids and strong-armed police operations, are not truly egalitarian societies, but protection rackets. The extent that European citizens are today, en masse, resisting this arbitrary distinction between citizen and non-citizen, in order to come to the direct aid of the Syrian refugees, is precisely the extent to which Europe is living up to its claim to be Christian.

France’s Hollande Proposes Creation of Euro-Zone Government

Bloomberg Business, By Angeline Benoit, July 19

French President Francois Hollande said that the 19 countries using the euro need their own government complete with a budget and parliament to cooperate better and overcome the Greek crisis.

“Circumstances are leading us to accelerate,” Hollande said in an opinion piece published by the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday. “What threatens us is not too much Europe, but a lack of it.”

While the euro zone has a common currency, fiscal and economic policies remain mostly in the hands of each member state. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi made a plea this week for deeper cooperation between the euro members after political squabbles over Greece almost led to a rupture in the single currency.

Countries in favor of more integration should move ahead, forming an “avant-garde,” Hollande said.

Grecian Formula (20)16

The news says Greece has voted against Euro-Austerity. Forecasters are suggesting there will be a stern “it’s just business” reaction by the bankster community, so they will insist Greece get out of the EU, and then they shall recruit all lenders to apply every economic pressure upon Greece with ‘extreme prejudice’ . They hope to embarrass the Greek leadership while maximizing the misery of Greek citizens. Most American commentators I read say there will be almost no ripple effect felt by the American economy.

Today, in a comment by Lisa over at Ian Welsh’s blog, I read of a possible consequence that never crossed my mind: coup d’etat.

On the one hand, it does not make much sense. The governing party will be under tremendous pressure to ease the already awful economic pain Greece suffers and the odds in favor of succeeding are long. Unless the nation finds a way to sacrifice and rebuild on its own, the Greek people are very likely to boot their government out. Given the debt load, this might happen to one or more succeeding governments. With that in mind, agents who might otherwise contemplate a violent short-cut may be better off biding their time.

Lisa was one of the commenters who alluded to the history of regime change. While I have believed all along that Greece was going to vote “no” because of national or cultural pride, I had not considered that the 1% have their pride too— the pride of possession, nine-tenths of the law.
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Defiant Varoufakis Says He’ll Quit If Greeks Endorse Austerity

Bloomberg Business, By Matthew Campbell & Guy Johnson, July 2

Yanis Varoufakis said Greece won’t “extend and pretend” that it can pay its debts, vowing to quit as finance minister if voters don’t support him in Sunday’s referendum.

With banks shuttered and Greece’s economy hobbled by capital controls, Varoufakis said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Athens that he would “rather cut my arm off” than sign a deal that fails to restructure Greece’s debt. The 54-year-old economics professor said he “will not” continue in his post if Greece endorses austerity in the plebiscite.

The minister’s comments illustrate the gulf between Greece’s government, which swept into office on a wave of discontent about budget cuts, and the creditors who are threatening to push it out of the euro. European governments led by Germany have condemned last weekend’s decision by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to pull out of talks and call a snap referendum on the conditions for financial aid. Polls suggest it’s too close to call.

“Maybe we’ll change the configuration of the government”

“We desperately want to stay in the euro,” Varoufakis said. “We are going to win on Sunday.”

Short video interview with Varoufakis at the link.

Via Zero Hedge: Varoufakis Will Resign If Referendum Passes, Says Would Rather “Cut Off Arm” Than Sign

Greece debt crisis: ECB ‘to end’ bank emergency lending

The European Central Bank is expected to end emergency lending to Greece’s banks on Sunday, the BBC understands.

BBC, June 28

Well-placed sources told BBC economics editor Robert Peston a decision to end the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) would be made by the ECB’s governing council later on Sunday.

Greek banks depend on ELA funds daily.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said his government would consider overnight what measures to take “to minimise the burden on our people”.

Cutting the ECB lifeline could push Greece out of the euro.

Such an ECB cut would mean “Europe has failed”, Mr Varoufakis told the BBC’s World this Weekend.

Via Naked Capitalism: BBC: ECB to Stop Emergency Support of Greek Banks on Monday; Bank Holiday Likely

The Guardian: Greek crisis: Banks shut for a week as capital controls imposed – live updates

Greek banks will not open until July 7 in an attempt to avoid financial panic, after ECB capped the emergency funds keeping them running

Eurozone doomed whether Greece leaves or stays, study shows

The single currency is forcing its members further apart and cannot survive in its current form, new analysis shows

The Telegraph, By James Kirkup, June 21

The Eurozone is doomed and cannot survive in its current form, regardless of what happens to Greece, a major new study shows.

New research demonstrates that members of the single European currency are becoming more economically divergent, making a single rate of interest increasingly unsuitable for the bloc.

Political, social and cultural differences will also make it increasingly hard for the euro members to share a currency. Eventually, the Eurozone will have to either “integrate or disintegrate”, the analysis says.

The research, by economic consultants from the ECU Group, is part of Change, or Go, a wide-ranging study of Britain’s European Union membership and future prospects.

EU issues final warning to Greece as last-ditch talks achieve nothing

The Greek interior ministry has ordered governors and mayors to transfer all cash reserves to the central bank as bankruptcy closes in.

The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, June 11

The European Union has warned Greece in the clearest language to date that its patience is exhausted and the country will be abandoned to its fate unless it accepts creditor demands in short order.

Donald Tusk, the EU’s president, said the radical-Left Syriza government must stop spinning out the negotiations and face hard choices before Greece spirals irrevocably into default.

“There is no more time for gambling. The day is coming, I’m afraid, that someone says that the game is over,” he said.

The blunt language came as the International Monetary Fund pulled its officials out of the talks, citing a failure to break the deadlock after four months of wrangling. “There are major differences between us in most key areas. There has been no progress in narrowing these differences,” it said.

Why Syriza failed; Why Europe may fail with it

Hullabaloo / Down With Tyranny, By Gaius Publius, May 15

I haven’t written much about Greece lately, but there’s quite a story going on. It’s not that difficult to follow, but you have to be careful whom you read. Conventional wisdom (backed by corporate, pro-austerity media outlets here and abroad) says it’s a morality tale — bad Greeks who went into too much debt and now they can’t pay up. Good German bankers want their money and are reluctant to forgive bad deeds because it might encourage other debt-owing entities to seek debt relief as well. They’re calling that “moral hazard,” fear that a bailout might encourage more bad behavior. There must be consequences, or so they think.

The bottom line of those who tell this tale — Greece provides a place for lovers of austerity (like cuts to social programs) to point and sneer. Their refrain, which I’m sure you’ve heard, is “We don’t want to end up like Greece, do we?”

The reality of the Greek situation is different — not hard to understand, just different.
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