The Twilight of Angela

Die Welt 29 July 2013

Deutschland erlebt die Merkel-Dämmerung

Die deutsche Bundeskanzlerin ist auf dem Zenit ihrer Macht. Sie sollte ihre Dekade vollenden und dann abtreten. Doch Macht mit Grazie abzugeben erfordert künstlerisches Talent.

Von Denis MacShane

 

Wird es Zeit, Karten für die neue Oper “Merkeldämmerung” zu kaufen? Die wachsende europäische und globale Ablehnung der Merkelnomics muss verletzend sein für eine Bundeskanzlerin, die ihrem Land bisher genauso gut gedient hat wie alle ihre christdemokratischen Vorgänger.

Wie Konrad Adenauer und Helmut Kohl hat sie gute Chancen, im September ihre dritte Bundestagswahl zu gewinnen. Aber im Unterschied zu jenen und anders als die andere große Führerin Europas, Margaret Thatcher, wird Frau Merkel ein Gespür dafür haben, wann es Zeit ist, das Kanzleramt durch eigenen Entschluss zu verlassen – anstatt von ihrer eigenen Partei oder vom Wähler rausgeschmissen zu werden.

An die Macht zu gelangen ist die höchste Aufgabe der Politik. Sie mit Grazie wieder abzugeben erfordert ein künstlerisches Talent. Zehn Jahre im Amt – das sind zwei Jahre mehr, als die amerikanische Verfassung dem US-Präsidenten erlaubt.

Nachdem François Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher oder Jacques Chirac ein Jahrzehnt im Amt waren, verloren sie Autorität und den Zauber der Macht. Merkel sollte ihre Dekade regieren und dann etwas anderes machen.

Die Merkelnomics haben zu Nullwachstum geführt

Mit ihr wird dann auch die enge Perspektive orthodoxer Ökonomie abtreten, die Europa seit dem Banken-Crash von 2008 auf den Pfad des Nullwachstums geführt hat. Es war eine Mode, gierigen amerikanischen Bankern und deregulierten Händlern am Finanzplatz London die Schuld an dem Crash zu geben.

Beide Vorwürfe treffen zu, aber viele Banken in Deutschland, der Schweiz, Frankreich und anderen EU-Ländern suhlten sich in den gleichen trüben Gewässern und genossen die Profite, die der Kasino-Kapitalismus in Form von Derivaten, Hedgefonds und andere Werte abziehenden Finanzinstrumenten ermöglichte.

Weder trägt Merkel die Schuld für die maroden öffentlichen Haushalte in einigen südeuropäischen Ländern. Noch ist sie schuld an der irischen oder spanischen Immobilienblase oder an der Unfähigkeit der griechischen Regierungen, seien sie links oder rechts, Steuern bei ihren Wählern einzutreiben.

Deutschland verfügt auch nicht über eine Kette von unkontrollierten Steuerfluchtinseln wie Großbritannien. Und es ist nicht Frau Merkel anzukreiden, dass Deutschland Nachbarländer hat wie die Schweiz, Luxemburg oder Liechtenstein, die auch Al Capone hilfreiche Steuertipps hätten geben können.

Frau Merkel hatte Glück, dass ihr Vorgänger Gerhard Schröder die schwere Aufgabe gestemmt hat, die deutsche Wirtschaft aufzuräumen und wieder wettbewerbsfähig zu machen. Der smarte luxemburgische Politiker Jean-Claude Juncker hat einmal gesagt: “Jeder politische Führer in Europa weiß, was getan werden muss, aber keiner weiß, wie man wiedergewählt wird, nachdem man es getan hat.”

Schröder tat das Richtige und wurde abgewählt

Schröder ist dafür der Beweis. Ein halbes Jahrzehnt lang hielt er die Löhne der Arbeiter niedrig. Der deutsche industrielle Kapitalismus wurde gerettet, aber Schröder nicht. Seine Stammwähler fegten ihn aus dem Amt.

Angela Merkel hat der deutschen Wirtschaft in keiner Weise geschadet. Aber sie hat der erweiterten europäischen Wirtschaft nichts Gutes getan. Nach fünf Jahren Merkelnomics ist die halbe EU in der Rezession, und die andere Hälfte zeigt kein oder nur geringes Wachstum. Tatsächlich führt ihr Führungsstil des Klein-Klein Deutschland an den Rand des Nullwachstums. Die Folge ist, dass sich Merkel jetzt mit einer ähnlichen populistischen antieuropäischen Bewegung konfrontiert sieht, wie sie in Großbritannien Nigel Farage anführt, Geert Wilders in den Niederlanden, Beppe Grillo in Italien, die Wahren Finnen oder in Frankreich Marine Le Pen und Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Auf die Merkelnomics muss eine smartere Wirtschaftspolitik folgen. Es scheint so, als habe man endlich auch in Brüssel angefangen zu verstehen, dass Flexibilität wichtiger ist als Rigidität. Ein Europa, das nicht biegsam ist, wird zerbrechen.

Europa hat die meiste Zeit des 21. Jahrhunderts verschwendet mit einer obsessiven Diskussion über Verfassungsfragen, anstatt zu fragen, wie Wachstum, Arbeitsplätze, Gewinne und Investitionen entstehen. Die Vereinigten Staaten und Japan zeigen einige gute Ansätze. Amerikas Energierevolution auf Basis von Schiefergas sollte Europa inspirieren.

Nach der 20 Jahre dauernden Illusion, dass unser nicht vorhandener Sonnenschein einmal Gas oder Atomkraft ersetzen könne, muss Europa erkennen, dass die hohen Energiepreise und der protektionistische und fragmentierte Energiemarkt zu einer Bremse des Wachstums geworden sind.

Wir brauchen ein neues ökonomisches Denken

Die Merkelnomics haben zu viel moralisierenden Überschuss, um sie einfach zu exportieren. Natürlich können andere EU-Mitgliedsstaaten von Deutschland lernen, dass Arbeitsmarktreformen sowie ein ausgeglichenes Verhältnis von Ausgaben und Einnahmen die unverzichtbaren Zwillinge jedes neuen ökonomischen Paradigmas sein müssen.

Trotz der dummen Attacken einiger französischer Sozialisten gegen Angela Merkel scheint sich Präsident Hollande selbst zu merkelisieren. Er hat Einschnitte bei den öffentlichen Ausgaben angekündigt, außerdem Steuererleichterungen für Privatunternehmen, eine Anhebung des Renteneintrittsalters, eine Reduzierung von Leistungen, und er klang wie Tony Blair, als er sagte, die Linke sollte keine Steuern erhöhen.

Derzeit boomt die Londoner Börse, und Apple sitzt auf 250 Milliarden Dollar Cash. Diese Berge von Kapital, die von den Über-Reichen gehortet werden, müssen frei fließende Ströme von Kapital werden, die eine neue Mittelklasse von Unternehmern und gerecht bezahlte Arbeiter hervorbringen. Dorthin zu gelangen erfordert ein neues ökonomisches Denken, etwa in der Art von Ludwig Erhards sozialer Marktwirtschaft.

Aber Fantasie, Vision oder politisches Risiko sind nicht die Begriffe, die man mit Merkel assoziiert. Es ist falsch, sie für Europas Probleme verantwortlich zu machen, aber es ist richtig, zu fragen, ob mehr Merkelnomics die Antwort sein können. Merkel hat getan, was sie konnte, aber heute verhindert sie Fortschritt.

Der Autor war von 2002 bis 2005 britischer Europaminister.

 

How To Solve ED M’s Party-Union Problem

Social Europe Journal 25 July 2013

British Unions Should Copy Europe And Modernise The Party Link

There is an answer to Ed Miliband’s little local difficulties with Unite. It is Europe. Across the channel unions and social democratic parties are still scratching their heads at the way their British sister party organizes its relationship with trade unions. Whether in Sweden or Spain, the British model simply does not make sense. Nor does the occult system of funding British democracy which results in a permanent soft corruption of political parties as party leaders cannot avoid being beholden or at least available to their paymasters.

Trade unions and left parties around the world have a common gene pool but at different moments in the 20th century they became detached and learnt to stand on their own separate feet. The one exception is Britain where trade union leaders take as a given that they can come with big delegations to Labour Party conferences and sit as of right on national and regional executive committees. Compared to the behaviour of trade unions in the 1970s, the role of Len McCluskey’s Unite has been modest. Then the big unions in industrial centres in the Midlands, north England and Scotland would centralize payment of their members’ subscriptions to individual constituencies. Old Labour hands amuse themselves with stories of 50 members of the National Union of Mineworkers suddenly turning up at a Yorkshire constituency and raising their hands en masse to vote for their candidate. In the north-east, the big unions quietly divided up the constituencies where they would control the selection process.

For the most part, the unions used this power to place in safe Labour seats clever young men from London like Peter Mandelson or David Miliband or in an earlier era Giles Radice and John Smith. The present crop of senior Labour politicians from Oxbridge who have replaced the MPs from a mining or engineering worker background in the north or the Midlands owe their elevation to trade unions. In fact, the real complaint to be laid at McCluskey’s door is why he is doing nothing to promote workers to be an MP instead of using Unite’s muscle to add to the university-educated policy experts and advisers who pullulate in union and shadow ministerial offices waiting for a union to parachute them into a safe seat.

None of this makes much sense to Labour’s sister parties on the continent. The links between unions and left parties are solid. The new leader of Sweden’s social democratic party, Stefan Lovfen , is a welder who headed Sweden metalworkers’ union, before being asked to become party leader. In Germany, Spain or France the unions will work in parallel with their left parties but if the head of the giant metalworker or public sector worker unions in Germany want to take part in the SPD congresses they can only do so as an individual delegate.

No European trade union sits by right on the executive leadership committees of their linked parties. None pays a Euro to finance party operations. Occult financing remains a problem in continental politics but no party leader can make a donor into a legislator in the way David Cameron and Nick Clegg reward their big donors with peerages or Tony Blair converted big union donors into legislators for life in the Lords.

No one across the Channel blathers about breaking the link. Unions run their own campaigns and left parties are often more worker-friendly than the excessive caution of the last Labour government which seemed to many workers to be more open to the ideas of the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, or the  Institute of Directors and other right-wing anti-worker outfits. The poor TUC or its big unions or left outfits like the Fabians were paralysed in advancing their arguments out of a sense of uncritical loyalty to ‘their Labour Party’ which they felt bound to constitutionally. As a result the unions had zero influence on Labour policy. Despite being part of the Labour Party they were adornments and occasional moaners but never deciders. Paradoxically, continental unions, independent of the main party of the left, have more influence and can influence policy because they are separate from the party.

A European model for Labour and the unions would lead to both standing on their own feet. It would mean Labour taking the lead for clean party political financing which would end the idea of buying a seat as a legislator in exchange for cash.  The same separate existence for unions and progressive parties has also come into place in Australia, Canada or America. In Brtiain, is it is time for the unions themselves to take the lead and say a new party-union relationship in Britain would be better for both.

Sovereign Iggy

Who Decides Who is Sovereign?

The centre-left think tank Demos has just celebrated its 20th anniversary with a guest lecture from Michael ignatieff.  The elegant Ignatieff – Iggy in the vernacular – in his slim-fit starched white shirt and power tie seemed out of place beside the more fustian figures of the English intelligentsia elite presided over by one of their energetic coordinators, David Goodhart.

Ignatieff who led his Liberal Party in Canada to a crushing defeat in his last year’s election defined progressive politics as being for fairness, the market, a sustainable ecology, for justice, for equality and just about everything everybody could approve of.

The only meat in his argument was the need for more sovereignty and less market. But whose sovereignty – the nation-state, the region or nations within states like Quebec, Catalonia or Scotland? The sovereignty of the trade union or of the boss? Which markets should be limited?

There is an interesting row going on at the moment over Amazon. After Iggy’s talk I read In the London Standard, the paper’s fine literary editor, David Sexton, attack Amazon saying its e-book operation was destroying small independent publishers. In France, the socialist culture minister, Aurelie Fillipetti, (the thinking man’s Maria Miller) has attacked Amazon because small bookstores are shutting down as they cannot compete with the massive discounting of Amazon prices.

This seems to read across to what Iggy was saying, namely that the sovereignty of small publishers or independent bookshops had to be protected against the assault of a book selling monopoly behemoth like Amazon. The contrary view could be found here in City AM where the paper’s editor, Alistair Heath, argued that Amazon über Alles was the correct market line because consumer sovereignty should triumph over small bookseller or small publisher sovereignty.

My problem is I agree with Heath, Sexton and Filipetti. I love Amazon’s cheaper books but I love small publishers (especially those who have brought out my well-remaindered books) and I love the fact that every town in France has books on sale.

Neither Iggy not the other elite intellectuals on the platform discussed whose sovereignty should triumph and who acts as the Solomon to judge between competing interests. The Government has decided that the sovereignty of local nimbys to oppose wind turbines is more important than the sovereignty of a wider community to have green energy. It seems that Labour agrees. On that basis it is hard to see how the NHS would have come into being as Aneuran Bevan crushed local control of hospitals in order to centralize health under Whitehall as the guardian of the nation’s sovereign right to have a uniformly, centrally administered free health care system. Whose sovereignty will prevail –local land or home owners or a wider national interest – if we want to develop shale gas or solve London’s airport congestion difficulties?

Ignatieff attacked Google, not over its zero tax payments, or appropriation of personal data on a much wider scale than the Prisim programme but as the modern equivalent of pre-1914 monopolies like Standard Oil or United Steel which gobbled up smaller players and dominated markets. No-one mentioned the big sovereignty debate as between UK and European legislation and jurisdiction. Is it a question of balance or is sovereignty absolute? In which case who decides who is sovereign – elected parliaments and council or referendums on key issues?

In Switzerland they say ‘Le peuple est souverain’ – the people are sovereign. The people, not the political or administrative class, take the final decisions and decide through referendums what the canton or confederation will do. That is why there was genuine upset amongst Swiss politicians of all colours when the rest of the world denounced the ugly Muslim-phobe referendum which banned minarets. ‘If you believe in sovereignty then the people’s will must be respected’ argued Swiss democrats even if they had opposed the overtly anti-Muslim referendum.

As demands grow in Britain for recall, for non-party controlled primaries to decide who shall be a candidate for Parliament, and as Britain faces up to a prospect of a referendum that is likely to take the UK out of Europe, the discussion of the meaning and applicability of sovereignty is more than ever relevant. Iggy only sketched some general ideas in his remarks but the sovereignty question is now out in the open and there is plenty of philosophical meat for Demos and other think-tanks to debate as Britain tries to shape its future.

 

 

Angela’s Twilight

Is it time to buy tickets for the new opera Die Merkeldammerüng? The iron rule in politics is that no good deed goes unpunished and the growing European and global rejection of Merkelomics must be wounding to a Chancellor who has served her nation as well as any of her CDU predecessors. Like Konrad Adenauer or Helmut Kohl she is likely to win a third federal election in September but unlke them, or Europe’s other great woman leader, Margaret Thatcher, Mrs Merkel will have the good sense to leave the Kanzleramt at a time of her choosing rather than being thrown out by her own party or the electorate.

And with her will go the narrow vision of orthodox economics that had sustained Europe on its path of no growth since the banking crash of 2008. It has been fashionable to blame the crash on greedy American bankers and deregulated City traders. Both charges are true but many German, Swiss, French and all EU banks wallowed in the same dirty water and enjoyed the casino capitalism profits that derivative trades, hedge funds and other value-subtracting financial instruments provided.

Mrs Merkel cannot be blamed for corrupt public finances in some southern European countries. Nor is she responsible for the Irish or Spanish housing bubble or the refusal of Greek governments of left or right to collect taxes from their voter clients. Germany does not preside over a chain on tax evasions islands unsupervised by the British government. It was not Mrs Merkel’s fault Germany has neighbours like Switzerland, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein which could have given tax planning advice to Al Capone.

Mrs Merkel was lucky in that her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, did all the heavy lifting to clean up the German economy and make it competitive again. The smart Luxembourg prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that ‘Every political leader in Europe knows what needs to be done but none of them know how to get re-elected after they have done it.’  Mr Schroeder proved the point. He held down workers’ wages for half a decade and created low-pay jobs. German industrial capitalism was saved but Mr Schroeder was not as his voting base kicked him out.

Mrs Merkel has done no harm to the German economy. But she has done no good to the wider European economy. After five years of Merkelnomics half of the EU is in recession and the half that is not shows little or no growth.  Indeed her do-little management style is edging Germany toward zero growth. As a result she now faces the same populist anti-European politics as seen from the UK’s Nigel Farage, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, Italy’s Beppe Grillo, the True Finns, or Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélanchon in France.

Merkelomics needs to give way to smarter economic management. The United States and Japan are showing some ways forward. America’s new energy revolution based on shale gas should inspire Europe.  After twenty years of fantasy that today’s absent sunshine would do away with coal, gas or nuclear needs Europe needs to understand that the high costs of energy and the protectionist fragmented energy market are now a significant brake on growth.

Merkeleconomic has too much moralizing in it to be easily exported. Of Other EU member states can learn from Germany that labour market reforms and keeping spending in line with income are the indispensable twins of any new economic paradigm. Despite foolish attacks by some French socialists against Mrs Merkel, it seems that President Hollande is Merkelizing himself. He has announced major cuts in public spending, an increase in retirement age, a reduction in benefits and tax-breaks for private firms.

The London stock market is booming and Apple sits on $250 billion of cash. These mountains of capital currently hoarded by the über-rich need to become free-flowing rivers of capital that can create a new middle class of entrepeneurs and fair-paid workers.

That requires new economic thinking, the kind of imagined future of Erhard’s Sozialmarkwirtschaft. However imagination, vision and political risk are not words associated with Mrs Merkel. It is wrong to blame her for Europe’s problem but it is right to ask if more Merkelnomics is the answer. She has done all she can and is now an obstacle to progress. All political stars fade, and Merkel’s twilight has begun

Review of Competences Highlights Dave’s Dilemma

Below a note on the so-called ‘Review of Competences’ report announced by the Government on 23 July 2013

David Cameron is caught in the dilemma of serving his party which rejects Europe and leading a state whose high officials and business leaders do not want risk a rupture. There has been a endless tango between the Prime Minister and his followers. Initiatives like quitting the European People’s Party, passing a referendum bill promising a plebiscite on any future sharing of powers with European partners (except on Turkey joining the EU), or finally offering an In-Out referendum are all measures initiated by Mr Cameron to show he is listening to and acting upon his party’s hostility to Europe. He also proposed a ‘Review of Competences’ which was meant to examine if the balance was right between the powers Britain exercised and the powers it accepted Brussels should have. Mr Cameron asked other EU partners to join in this review of competences but other than Bulgaria and Italy which submitted banal obvious statements, the other European countries simply ignored the invitation. Why should Berlin or Stockholm or even Dublin get involved in an exercise which was about internal party politics in Britain? As it happened, the first report of the so-called ‘Review of Competences’, published just after Parliament rose for its summer recess in 2013 so as to ensure no querulous protests from Eurosceptic MPs, turned out to be unremarkable to the point of banality. The report drawn up by Foreign Office officials decided that the balance of powers between the UK and EU was broadly right and did not need major change. This is a clear message from the British state’s official machine that plunging ahead with a referendum that could risk an exit from Europe was not in Britain’s interests. More and more business leaders and even the Japanese government in a remarkable intervention have urged the Prime Minister to stay in Europe. How does he satisfy his MPs, party activists, UKIP voters and the anti-EU press while at the same time appeasing the power-holders in the deep state and business who see the referendum process as too risky?  It is Mr Cameron’s dilemma and no-one knows, not even himself, how to resolve it.

Why Need a New Bulgakov

Russian ‘Justice’ Become Ever More Surreal
By Denis MacShane

Where are you Mikhail Bulgakov when we need you? The Russian surrealist writer had to wait in 25 years in his grave before his masterpiece satire on Stalin’s Russia, The Master and Margarita was published. Stalin’s body was a decade into his embalmed state before Bulgakov’s book came out.
Will the world have to wait that long before a modern Russian artist describes in a novel, film or play the surreal destruction of justice and democracy on display in today’s Moscow.
Alexei Navalny, the witty, rumbustious, street-smart Russian opposition leader was jailed last week on faked up charges of fraud. He was carted off to begin his five years in prison when suddenly, like one of Bulgakov’s apparitions, three wise men, Russian ‘judges’, appeared, and decided he could be freed on bail.
Both this first verdict and the new release are Kremlin orchestrated operetta. Navalny now faces the political prisoner’s dilemma. Does he stay in Moscow and run for political office as Mayor and face certain defeat at the hands of the Putin election fixing unit in the Kremlin followed by a return to prison? Or does he skip to a democratic country and have his moment of fame and freedom before relapsing into the miserable life of a political exile?
Meanwhile in another surreal moment, the G20 finance ministers met in Moscow to discuss tax evasion and cleaning up the world’s lax tax régimes. In Moscow? The home of the greatest group of state-sanctioned tax dodgers seen in world history?
The irony is just too delicious. At a meeting of Russian oligarchs in 2003 which was filmed and shown in Norma Percy’s remarkable BBC documentary series on Putin, the Russian oligarch Mikhail Khordokovsky is seen telling Putin that he and fellow oligarchs can no longer recruit the best minds from Moscow’s elite universities. Instead the brilliant young men wanted to become tax police officials because that was where the real money was to be made.
Their zeal was not to obtain a fair share of new Russian wealth for the people and state but to help the new pol-biz elites avoid tax with the help of accountants and lawyers in London amongst other world centres of tax avoidance.
One of the best documented episodes of tax policy thieving is the tragedy of Sergei Magnitsky. He was the forensic tax expert hired by the British businessman, Willliam Browder, to try and find out what happened to $230 million of tax Browder’s Russian investment fund had paid to the Russian tax authorities.
As Magnitsky beavered away he uncovered, as the Council of Europe has recently reported, a chain of tax thievery at the highest level of the Russian state. Magnitsky was arrested on the Kremlin’s orders and died in atrocious conditions in a Moscow prison in 2009.
At the very least, Britain’s George Osborne, France’s Pierre Moscovici and Germany’s Wolfgang Schauble and other G20 finance ministers should have gone to the Preobrazhenkoye cemetery in Moscow where Magnitsky is buried. They might have laid a wreath to honour the memory of a man who died exposing a tax scam and theft organized not by greedy businessmen but by high officials of the Russian state.
Instead in a moment of pure satire the G20 finance ministers sitting in the world epicenter of oligarch tax evasion will agree that something must be done.
The final moment requiring a Bulgakov or a Gogol is a libel trial that opens in London next week. The defendant is the victim of the Russian tax scam, Bill Browder. The plaintiff is the Russian tax official who has been named in the US law – the Justice for Magnitsky Act – as being one of the men now banned from entering America because of his involvement in Magnitksky’s death.
The dead Magnitsky cannot be a witness in this libel case and nor will the Russian functionary be present. But London is not the world capital of libel tourism for nothing and the man whose tax cheque was stolen sits in the accused box as lawyer’s fees soar to the heavens.
There are some good journalists who write about this like Edward Lucas of the Economist , Piotr Smolar of Le Monde and Luke Harding of the Guardian but this saga requires the hand of a great artist. Russia has always produced Europe’s finest novelists. Soon one will emerge to explain to the world what is really going on.

Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Europe Minister

The Pakistanisation of Egypt

This was posted today by the Carnegie Endowment for Democracy

Denis MacShaneFormer UK minister for Europe

Egypt’s coup does not have to lead to civil war, but what happens now depends on the Muslim Brotherhood.

When in 1974 the Portuguese army overthrew a disliked authoritarian government, the world hailed the “coup” as a bold move to establish democracy in Portugal. Now in Egypt, it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood was paying lip service to democracy to win power, only to then kill it off by refusing all the compromises essential to make democratic government work.

In 1997, Islamist militants seized 60 tourists near Luxor, mainly Swiss who were enjoying ancient Egyptian culture, and butchered them in the name of Islamist ideology. Some were beheaded. The man believed to be responsible for the atrocity was appointed in 2013 by then president Mohamed Morsi as the governor of Luxor. Such cynical promotion of evil shocked all decent Egyptians—as did the Muslim Brotherhood’s arrests, torture, and suppression of media freedom.

Whether Egypt now descends into civil war depends on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist party can turn away from nondemocracy and violence, or else splinter into various Salafist jihadist groups. The army must organize new elections soon and accept that civil society has a right to criticize. Egypt is slowly being Pakistanized as military and mullahs jostle for power over a corrupt economy. This need not happen, but modern societies cannot live under religious autocracy. Egyptians have glimpsed a Muslim Brotherhood future and decided it does not work.

Military rule can give way to democracy—South Korea, Brazil, and Greece are modern examples. Hopefully, Egypt’s new, younger generals are working on a similar future for their country.

All Spying on All

This was published by Foreign Policy 2 July 2013

Gentlemen, Calm Yourselves
When it comes to spouting hypocrisy about the NSA’s spying, the Europeans have no equals.
BY DENIS MACSHANE | JULY 2, 2013

In 1929, U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson closed down the State Department’s codebreaking department with a famously laconic justification: “Gentlemen do not read each others’ mail.”
Now, all of Europe is in a great tizzy over revelations that the United States hoovers up emails, Skype calls, and most cell phone traffic in its relentless pursuit of bad guys. But for every terrorist or human trafficker, there are a million blameless citizens (and probably a few gentlemen) who feel a sense of — if not outrage, then deep unease — that privacy has seemingly been abolished under President Barack Obama.
Some of the anger is synthetic. When I was Tony Blair’s Europe minister, I was given very clear instructions that I should not use my cell phone in Paris because a transcript of what I said would be on a French minister’s desk within 15 minutes.
I ignored the advice not because I doubted it was true but because I couldn’t think of a more efficient way to convey Her Majesty’s Government’s line to the French. Yet French President François Hollande has nonetheless condemned the alleged U.S. eavesdropping, protesting that “We cannot accept this kind of behavior from partners and allies.” Hollande’s trade minister, meanwhile, hinted that the snooping could endanger the EU-U.S. transatlantic trade negotiations due to open in Washington next week. Paris had clearly forgotten the 2005 trial of a dozen Elysée officials who, at the behest of President Francois Mitterrand, listened in on the phone calls of political opponents and journalists in the 1980s.
Traditional French hypocrisy merged with the chance to hit back at Washington over U.S. demands that France ends its so-called “cultural exception” policy, which controls imports of foreign movies and videos and subsidizes domestic production in order to keep the French film cameras turning. The leaks also provided political cover for Hollande, whose economic policy is becoming more austere by the week. Lashing out at the United States — always France’s favorite love-hate target for political abuse — distracts from the growing leftist anger in France over the president’s slow turn toward mainstream economic policy.
But no amount of indignation can disguise the fact that France is hardly Stimson’s idea of a gentleman. In addition to its official espionage activities, France is home to world-class eavesdropping companies. One of them, Amesys, which was part of the giant French IT group Bull, sold its Internet analysis software to Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2007. (Amesys is still facing charges in Paris from a human rights NGO for allegedly facilitating torture.)
France, however, has not been alone in condemning the espionage allegations. Berlin called in the U.S. ambassador to lodge a complaint and the president of the European Parliament, the German Martin Schulz, demanded to know why the United States treats Europe “how they would treat a hostile power.” Yet Germany’s own security agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst or BND, is notorious for leaking intercepts to journalists in order to expose its targets. For example, BND sources are frequently quoted by Serb propagandists and can be read on Wikipedia as part of their campaign to discredit Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, by dredging up false allegations that he ran a private organ-harvesting operation during the Kosovo War in 1998-99.
Throughout all of this, the Brits have remained the most muted, despite the fact that it was a British newspaper, the Guardian, that broke the Edward Snowden story and sent the computer geek on the road to exile in one authoritarian country or another. Perhaps that’s because they too have done their fair share of snooping on friends. The Guardian also recently reported that the Brits spied on those who participated in the 2009 G-20 summit in London, including, presumably, Obama. Under then Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the BlackBerrys of visiting officials were hacked and fake Internet cafés were set up in order to gain access to private email accounts.
Since the beginning of the Snowden affair, the British government has been issuing so-called “D” notices — pleas not to report the details of security operations — to newspaper editors, most of whom have been delighted not to promote the reportage of a rival. As a result, the Guardian has had the story mainly to itself — that is, if you don’t count the newspaper’s liberal-left readers, who tend to believe the worst of anything out of Washington, D.C.
The news that the United States was listening to communications in the European Commission, Council of Ministers, or Parliament was simply laughed at. Talkative, audience-hungry Eurocrats and politicians spill their beans over lunch every day of the week in Brussels — and to anyone willing to listen. The idea of some hapless American trainee spook trying to decode Eurospeak sounds to most Europeans like a punishment worse than anything Snowden might face in exile.
Unfortunately for Obama, being the butt of a joke can have serious reputational costs. Despite the hypocrisy of European protestations, the revelations of massive snooping have been extraordinarily damaging. Coupled with his failure to close Guantanamo and the use of drones to kill at will, they speak to Europe’s broader disappointment with a president whose historic election in 2008 was supposed to herald a decisive break with the past. Now, the epithet “Obabush” is in common usage.
Europe is once again growing apart from America. The United States seems to be turning the corner on its post-2008 economic misery. By contrast, Europe — both eurozone and non-eurozone nations alike — is stumbling, rather like Japan 20 years ago. Plans for U.S. energy independence — potentially enabled by technological advancements in shale gas — exist in tension with European’s anti-fracking environmentalism. Meanwhile, America’s pivot to Asia leaves Europe uncertain about its future security at a time when defense ministries across the continent are absorbing major budget cuts. “America is back” was recently splashed on the cover of the Economist; Europe’s economics and politics are more like extracts from Les Miserables.
For decades, Europeans complained that the United States didn’t listen to its European allies. Now, the Snowden saga has revealed that Europe finally has America’s ear — if not exactly in the way it had bargained for. After all, spying on friends is something gentlemen are not really meant to do.

Die Welt 6 July 2013 – Article on Snowden, European Hypocrisy

Die Welt 6 July 2013

Gentlemen, beruhigt Euch!

Die Enthüllungen über die Abhörpraxis ausländischer Dienste sind für den ehemaligen britischen Europa-Minister keine große Neuigkeit. Ein Erfahrungsbericht Von Denis MacShane

Es war 1929, als der US-Außenminister Henry L. Stimson die Abteilung der Code-Entschlüsseler im State Department schloss mit dem berühmt lakonischen Kommentar: “Gentlemen lesen nicht, was andere in ihrer Post schreiben.” Heute ist Europa in höchster Aufregung über Enthüllungen, dass die USA wie mit dem Stabsauger alles aufsammeln, was über E-Mails, Skype und die meisten Mobiltelefone durch den Äther geht, mit dem Argument, sie wollten den Bösewichtern dieser Welt das Handwerk legen. Doch auf jeden potenziellen Terroristen und Menschenhändler kommen Millionen unschuldiger Bürger, die, wenn nicht von Empörung, so doch von tiefem Unwohlsein befallen sind, dass unter Präsident Obama jede Privatsphäre offensichtlich abgeschafft worden ist.

Diese Verärgerung kann ich zum Teil nur als synthetisch bezeichnen. In meiner Zeit als Europaminister unter Tony Blair hatte ich strikte Anweisung, zum Beispiel bei Besuchen in Paris für offizielle Gespräche nie mein Mobiltelefon zu benutzen, da ein Transkript meiner Worte binnen 15 Minuten auf dem Tisch eines französischen Ministers landen würde.

Ich ignorierte diese Instruktion, nicht weil sie mir unglaubhaft schien, sondern weil ich mir keinen besseren Weg vorstellen konnte, den jeweiligen Standpunkt Ihrer Majestät Regierung der französischen Seite nahezubringen. Und doch hat Präsident François Hollande jetzt scharf protestiert mit den Worten: “Wir können diese Art Gebaren von Partnern und Verbündeten nicht hinnehmen.” Offenbar hat man in Paris den Prozess 2005 gegen ein Dutzend Élysée-Angestellte vergessen, die auf Anweisung von Präsident Mitterrand in den 80er-Jahren Telefonate von politischen Gegnern und Journalisten abgehört hatten.

Hier paart sich traditionelle französische Heuchelei mit einer günstigen Gelegenheit, auf Washingtons Forderung zu reagieren, Frankreichsolle seine Politik einer “exception culturelle” aufgeben, die den Import ausländischer Filme und Videos kontrollieren möchte und heimische Produktionen subventioniert, um französische Kameras am Laufen zu halten. Auf die USA – schon immer das bevorzugte Hassliebeobjekt für politische Verunglimpfung – einzuschlagen lenkt im Übrigen so schön von dem Ärger der französischen Linken ab über einen Präsidenten, der sich allmählich auf den wirtschaftspolitischen Mainstream zubewegt.

Überhaupt entspricht Frankreich Henry Stimsons Vorstellungen eines Gentleman keineswegs. Neben seiner eigenen Spionagetätigkeit ist das Land das Hauptquartier einiger Abhörunternehmen von Weltrang. Erinnert sei nur, dass eines davon, Amesys, Teil der gigantischen französischen IT-Gruppe Bull, 2007 seine Internetanalysesoftware an Muammar Gaddafi zu verkaufen wusste.

Neben Paris hat man auch andernorts die Spionagevorwürfe gegen die USA aufgegriffen. In Berlin wurde der US-Botschafter einbestellt, und in Brüssel verlangte Martin Schulz, der Präsident des Europäischen Parlaments, zu wissen, warum die USA Europa “wie eine feindliche Macht” behandelten. Dabei ist auch der deutsche BND für seine Usance bekannt, abgefangene Nachrichten schon mal Journalisten zuzuspielen und damit bestimmte Zielfiguren bloßzustellen. Serbische Propagandisten zum Beispiel zitieren häufig solche Quellen, die man sogar auf Wikipedia findet, als Teil ihrer Kampagne, den Premierminister des Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, zu diskreditieren aufgrund von Fälschungen, die man ihm aus dem Kosovo-Krieg anhängt.

In all dieser Aufregung ist das offizielle London auffallend still geblieben, obwohl es eine britische Zeitung war, der “Guardian”, der den Stein dank der Snowden-Enthüllungen ins Rollen gebracht hatte. Vielleicht, weil man sich der eigenen Praxis, auch Freunde auszuspionieren, nur allzu bewusst ist. Etwa während des G-20-Gipfels in London 2009, wo man die Gespräche der Delegationen anzapfte, um Herrschaftswissen über deren Verhandlungspositionen zu erwerben.

Über die Nachricht, dass die USA auch Kommunikationen in der EU-Kommission, im Ministerrat und im Europäischen Parlament abhören, können Eingeweihte freilich nur lachen. Schwatzhafte, publicitysüchtige Eurokraten plaudern ihre “Geheimnisse” jeden Tag beim Lunch aus. Die Vorstellung, ein amerikanischer Azubi-Spion rackere sich daran ab, Eurospeak zu dekodieren, kommt den meisten Europäern wie eine schlimmere Strafe vor als alles, was ein Snowden im Exil zu gewärtigen haben mag.

Aber Adressat solcher Witze zu sein kann für Obama ernste Folgen haben. Trotz aller Scheinheiligkeit der Proteste hat die Aufdeckung der massiven Abhörpraxis dem amerikanischen Ansehen außerordentlichen Schaden zugefügt. Nimmt man Obamas bisher nicht eingelöstes Versprechen hinzu, Guantanamo zu schließen, oder das Thema Drohnen, so zeigt sich hier eine breitflächige Enttäuschung Europas mit einem Präsidenten, dessen Wahl 2008 doch einen Aufbruch in eine neue Zukunft mit sich bringen sollte. Schon gerät das Epitheton “Obabush” in allgemeinen Umlauf.

Der Graben zwischen Europa und den USA wird wieder größer, auch in der Wirtschaft. Die USA scheinen ihre Post-2008-Misere hinter sich zu lassen, während die Länder der Euro-Zone dahinstolpern wie Japan vor 20 Jahren. Amerikanische Pläne für eine Energieautarkie, dank großer Vorkommen von Schiefergas, empören zudem europäische Anti-Fracking-Umweltapostel. Derweil erhöht Amerikas Verankerung in Asien die Ungewissheit um europäische Sicherheit, und das in einer Zeit, in der Verteidigungsministerien größere Budgetkürzungen hinnehmen müssen. “America is back” lautete unlängst eine Titelgeschichte des “Economist”. Europas Politik und Wirtschaft kommen einem da eher vor wie ein Auszug aus “Les Misérables”.

Jahrzehntelang pflegten sich die Europäer darüber zu beklagen, die USA hörten den Verbündeten jenseits des Atlantiks nicht zu. Dank Snowden weiß man jetzt in Europa, das man durchaus Amerikas Ohr hat – freilich nicht so wie erhofft. Ist doch das Ausspionieren von Freunden etwas, was Gentlemen eigentlich nicht tun sollten.

 

Brexit – My Argument in Standpoint

Below is an article in the July-August issue of Standpoint. Please note that quitting the EU would in my view be a disaster for Britain but intellectual honesty requires that the likelihood of this happening are now high

Britain Will Leave the European Union — Hélas!

Denis MacShane

It was just another Paris lunch. The editor of the Nouvel Observateur, and other media grandes fromages, at their local eatery opposite the Paris Bourse. David Cameron had just made his speech looking us all in the eye and promising an In/Out referendum. Prime ministers have ruminated about Europe in the past but this was the first time one had used In/Out language. In addition he gave a precise date for the referendum (by the end of 2017) to follow very imprecise negotiations to recast Britain’s relationship with the EU in a way Mr Cameron and his Eurosceptic party could endorse.

Unlike the wriggle room Tony Blair and then David Cameron left themselves over the Constitutional and Lisbon treaties it is hard to see how such a solemnly delivered promise of a plebiscite can be swerved around. The Liberal Democrats have endorsed it — just as Charles Kennedy’s announcement that he would vote with Tories in favour of a referendum on the EU Constitution forced Tony Blair’s hand in 2004. Then I was the last minister to hold out in the Foreign Office where Jack Straw, Mike O’Brien and even Bill Rammell, more Europhile even than me but with a highly marginal seat to defend, had been moaning about doorstep demands for a referendum at our ministerial meetings for months before Blair caved in. By spring 2004, the combination of Tories, Lib Dems and Labour MPs unable to face down the clamour for a referendum in the Eurosceptic press, meant that Blair had no choice but to concede one.

The referendum appetite grows with feeding. David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague thought they could pacify the referendistas with the offer of an eccentric Bill that promised a referendum if ever there was a “significant transfer” of sovereignty to Brussels. Note the FCO bill drafters’ weasel word “significant”. It would be up to ministers to decide if any future treaty meant a significant shift in power to Europe. If they decided it wasn’t significant then no referendum would be necessary. (Calls for this referendum Bill to cover a future treaty allowing Turkey to join were dismissed. The EU and Britain would change out of all recognition if 80 million Anatolian Muslims were allowed to come and live in Britain, but William Hague clings to the one British bit of EU policy which sounds progressive — the admission of Turkey to full EU membership.)

But far from the referendum Bill disposing of the problem all it did was whet the appetite of UKIP and anti-EU Conservatives as they demanded the real thing.  Mr Cameron duly conceded in January. His decision has fundamentally altered the terms of trade about Britain’s membership of Europe and made UK withdrawal, if not quite certain, extremely probable. The pro-European Ed Miliband sensibly refuses to reveal his hand on a referendum and told a gathering of pro-EU London elites (though to be fair Andrew Neil was there) at the German Embassy on June 10 that Labour was not in favour of an In/Out referendum now.

Mr Miliband is right to delay, to “wait and see”, in Asquith’s famous temporisation on Irish Home Rule. The European parliamentary election next May will be a defining moment. If the relentless rise of UKIP continues, it is implausible that Labour could be the only party to enter the 2015 general election campaign denying the people their chance to vote in a referendum on Europe. Perhaps public opinion will shift. Perhaps the media will call time on Nigel Farage’s braggadocio. After all, Senator Joe McCarthy persuaded Americans for years that Communists were controlling the United States, just as Mr Farage tells us Europe is controlling the United Kingdom, until finally journalists told the truth and McCarthy’s exaggerations and distortions were seen for what they were.

Perhaps the businesses that will lose out when we leave Europe and the City firms that will see all regulation for banking, insurance, currency and commodity trades move to the continent will speak up. Perhaps Rupert Murdoch will retire to the Leveson Home for Citizen Kanes and the Sun and The Times will revert to their 1975 pro-Europe stance. Perhaps after 2015, the rest of Europe will do anything, concede any opt-out, pay any price-triple the rebate, abolish the European Court of Human Rights — in order to persuade British voters not to leave. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

If Angela Merkel retires after 2015, the chances of a pro-British constellation being in power in Brussels and key EU capitals like Paris, Berlin, Rome and increasingly Warsaw are zero. The Conservative Party quit the main centre-right political grouping, the European People’s Party, in 2009 just at the time when its affiliates were winning a majority in most EU nations, in the European Parliament and on the Commission itself.

So as I enjoyed my Paris lunch I explained to my French media friends that it was time to take seriously the idea that Britain would leave the EU if a referendum were to be held in four years’ time. They all thought that British grumpiness was due to annoyance over the rebate, the influence of the Murdoch press on British politics, and a failure to understand that Britain had won most of the big EU treaty battles of recent years.

This French puzzlement is captured by Le Monde‘s foreign affairs commentator, Alain Frachon, who wrote:

“Why on earth do they want to leave? We know that being original is in the British, especially the English, DNA. But to go from that excellent character trait in the British to actually leaving the European Union is a step that even the least rational of the French finds hard to understand. For one simple reason: Europe is British, a fact which seems to have escaped the notice of UKIP and the Tories who also want to see their country leave Europe.”

For Le Monde‘s writer, Europe has rejected the French vision of a “Europe half social-democratic and half-run by the state”. On the contrary, “London has won. With an EU of more than 20 members there is no common policy save creating a big single market.” And that thanks to British diplomats. “An Oxford or Cambridge graduate is worth three French énarques because they have fashioned Europe according to British conceptions,” M. Frachon declared.

“No, no, no,” I told my French friends. That was not how the EU was seen in Britain. The reasons the British desire to leave Europe were deeper, I explained. The British political class had never really liked Europe. Labour was worse than the Conservatives. Attlee had refused to join the Iron and Steel Community and Gaitskell had denounced Macmillan’s first effort to enter Europe as “an end to a thousand years of history”. A majority of Labour MPs had voted against going into Europe in 1972, and the same majority opposed Harold Wilson’s renegotiation and the Yes vote in the 1975 referendum. Labour put withdrawal from Europe into its 1983 manifesto.

Tony Blair, despite being pro-European, offered a referendum on joining the euro, which effectively killed the idea. Gordon Brown’s five irrelevant tests were a red herring. Mr Blair appointed three previously devout Eurosceptics as his foreign secretaries and did little to encourage pro-European discourse from his own government or to promote pro-European MPs and ministers.

Since 1997, the Conservative Party under William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard and now David Cameron has been uniformly Eurosceptic. Even if the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary had to drop the scorn and open contempt for Europe they showed in their years in opposition, Mr Cameron has promoted avowed Eurosceptics to senior cabinet jobs. To be openly pro-European on the Tory benches since 2005 has been almost as rare as a woman cardinal electing a pope in Rome.

Like a court jester, Ken Clarke has been kept on, but no one is fooled that his presence dilutes the notion promoted by the generation of Margaret Thatcher’s children and protégés that Europe is a succubus from which a vigorous, free trade Britain focused on Conrad Black’s Anglosphere, China and the other emerging markets needs to free itself.

The Europe that Britain joined in 1973 grew at nearly twice the rate of the UK. Until the fall of  the Berlin Wall, and the abrupt halt to German growth after the country absorbed the dead weight of bankrupt Communist East Germany, the EU seemed a better place to do business than Britain. Then Thatchernomics and the deft way Blair and Brown incorporated deregulation, market opening and globalisation into Labour’s governing progamme (until the 2007-08 banking collapse) meant that for the first time since 1950 Britain was outperforming European economies. Who then needed Europe, all the more so as the enduring eurozone crisis was held up in Britain as a disaster? Britain’s membership of the EU “is like being shackled to a corpse”, declared the Eurosceptic Tory MP Douglas Carswell in October.

He and Daniel Hannan and the irrepressible Boris Johnson all enjoy dancing on the EU’s grave. The gravedigger-in-chief, Nigel Farage, seems to have become a BBC staffer as the broadcasters employ him 24/7 to use his vivid language to trash Europe.  In France, the anti-Europeans are hard, unforgiving, far-Right politicians like Le Pen, père et fille, or demagogic lefties like Jean-Luc Mélanchon. In Britain, the Eurosceptics are graduates of Have I Got News for You and use direct, vernacular English. They have all the press on their side, especially the offshore owned news media. Even the culturally pro-European Guardian opposed the euro and anti-European columnists outnumber the dwindling pro-European writers by ten to one. The Guardian‘s pro-European sage, Hugo Young, was replaced after his death by the scornful Eurosceptic Sir Simon Jenkins, and only theFinancial Times, unread outside City boardrooms, found a little space for pro-European veterans like Sir Geoffrey Howe or Sir Peter Sutherland occasionally to make the case for Europe.

The pro-Europeans have lost confidence in their cause, find it difficult to make the case, and have no natural political home since the ruling party, the Conservatives, is in varying degrees Eurosceptic and the post-Blair Labour Party hopes the Euro-boil will lance itself without Labour politicians ever having to make the case for Europe day in, day out. There are no witty, stylish, man-in-the-street pro-Europeans able to take on Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson or Daniel Hannan. Although Lord Sainsbury has helped to finance a beefed-up pro-EU website, Britishinfluence.org, it cannot match the reach of the much better funded anti-European propaganda operations. Business for New Europe has kept the pro-EU flag flying but the anti-EU Business for Britain was launched in April with the redoubtable campaigner and propagandist Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers’ Alliance as its chief executive.

The bad news has never stopped. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of European workers after 2004 had a profound impact. Previously immigrant meant a brown or black face from the old empire. Now the immigrants attacked by UKIP, the BNP, the tabloids and Tory MPs talking about benefit tourists are mostly Christian, white and European. The European Court of Human Rights, much admired when it stood against torture in Turkey or false imprisonment in Russia, became an object of hate when it ruled that like Switzerland Britain should let prisoners vote. As vice-president to Jacques Delors at the EC, Lord Cockfield was a hero when he replaced national regulation and customs to achieve the 1986 Single European Act. But the faintest hint from one of his French or Finnish successors that perhaps, just maybe, the City needs a little more regulation to avoid future RBS or Libor disasters is met with outrage.

The British were never occupied by the Nazis, resisted the Vatican and the Kremlin and would not bow down before the Berlaymont. I explained to my French friends that all these tributaries were coming together into one confluence that would gather in force ahead of the referendum. As a result Britain would leave Europe even if such an outcome was not the declared wish of the Prime Minister and was Ed Miliband’s nightmare. Britain, I said, was either the first in Europe or the last. We were last of the big Western European nations to join Europe and would be the first to leave.

The centrifugal and disintegrative forces in Europe are now such that, while Britain may be the first to say no to the EU as presently constituted, other countries in different ways will also face difficult choices over their European future. It is not what I wish and will be a major defeat for what I think are British interests. But we have reached a point when a plebiscite is more important than parliament and our politicians have lost control of the flow of events. Brexit will take place. What happens after no one knows.