Immigrant or EU Workers

Oh dear. It’s been a bad day listening to ill-informed, ugly or from the EU stupidly unhelpful comments on the possibliity of workers from Romania and Bulgaria coming to the UK en masse next year. Henning Meyer of Social Europe Journal wrote a concerned blog and I replied as below

 

It is not about public services. EU workers live mainly in private rented accommodation and but-to-let landlords or people who bought council houses to rent out have made a fortune from EU workers. Most EU workers are fit and young and do not need medical treatment. A problem can arise when dependent (elderly) relatives arrive but the greatest non-UK use of the NHS come from Commonwealth citizens and from Americans. Britain has always accepted mass worker immigration from the much poorer (until recently) of Ireland. Cameron has been helped by those Labour politicians who now say there should have been transition controls for the new EU member states in 2004. But there were already 500,000 Poles in the UK in 2004 as Britain has always had a big Polish community and it was easy to find work. The Poles benefitted the strong growth high employment UK economy that broke down in 2008. It was when unemployment took off and there was real competition for work at the unskilled low-pay end of the labour market that problems arose.
What is true is that in the past 20 years there has been a great deal of mass migration following the end of communism, the rise of Balkan, Middle East and African conflicts creating a huge push of young men out of those countries and the new global transportation networks that move people across frontiers more easily than in the past. Too many have arrived too suddenly. In addition, the old-style immigrant who came and integrated into host communities has been replaced by what I call ‘semigrants’ – people who via the net, satellite TV and cheap travel – never fully leave the countries they emigrate from.
But let us be clear. There are scares all over Europe about new arrivals. We have seen in France how a few hundred Roma can create a national panic with a socialist interior minister, Manuel Valls, sounding much tougher than Cameron does.
The Euro Parliament elections will see wins for those stoking up fears on immigrants, incomers, EU citizens from poorer states. It is no use wishing this away or trying to be angelic. A better approach might be to insist on fair pay, enforced minimum wages, union rights or works councils and a degree of co-responsibility of financing core social services. But that requires rethinking the organisation of the UK labour market and indeed the welfare state as currently in operation.
Meanwhile statements that seek to demonise or treat as modern-day Untermensch citizens from Bulgaria or Romania should be condemned. The idea that there is a Ukip-lite answer to this is false. The problem is a big one and needs big thinking not casual pandering to xenophobia.

National Parliaments Must Have New, Bigger Role in EU

Olaf Cramme of Policy Network has published a good article on Open Democracy about what’s wrong with the current EU debate.  Here is my comment.

 

This is a very good article. I would be careful of ‘framing’ argument. It might be applied to League of Nations which everyone moaned about, didn’t like, stayed out of, left and, well, someone might remember what happened. But bit by bit we are getting to a consensus (with exceptions) that national parliaments must become share-holders in the EU so that it  becomes their European Union not Brussels European Union. I have been tracking a number of reports and proposals from across Europe on next steps and there is a clear consensus on this.

Without boasting my 2005 pamphlet – my last act as Europe Minister under Blair – explaining why and how the Commons and national parliaments could win back control of EU policy is pertinent – though many others have made the point.

The German Grand Coalition agreement talks of returning Europe to the people (Shades of Robin Cook’s formulation – ‘A Peoples’ Europe’). Thankfully the earlier PSD/CSU hint of bringing in plebiscites to decide future Europe positions appears to have been binned but the German language is far away from more federal Europe associated with Germany in the past.

But the bigger problem facing Europe is how to keep the integrating Eurozone in touch with the non Euro EU member states. Another is what to do about Brexit. A greater role for national parliaments could help solve both immediate problems. But that requires leadership and hard work and too many national leaders now just slog anise on EU matters.

FT Letter

I like the FT loads but sometimes they write silly article. There was on Greece earlier this month I read on the way out to Athens. I wrote this rejoinder which sadly the FT did not publish.

Greece has many problems but for Professor Aristides Hatzis to tell readers that Greece is on the point of becoming Weimar Germany (FT Comment 7 November) is overblown academic exaggeration.
I first visited Greece under the Colonels and have been back regularly since – I write from Athens – and while the economic difficulties are real, the politics still in the hands of an old guard, and social tensions evident the Greece of today remains a European democracy, under rule of law, that with more intelligent economic leadership from the EU will get over its difficulties.
Golden Dawn is an ugly, racist, anti-European, populist party with roots in anti-semitic nationalist European fascism. There are other parties in Europe which attract more votes with a noxious appeal to blame foreigners, attack immigrants, and the assertion that the European Union and the Euro are t blame for all of Europe’s ills.
Greece has survived worse political murders, not the least the assassination of Britain’s defence attaché, Col Stephen Saunders, during the period when I was PPS at the FCO. The killing of innocent people happens in London during G8 demonstrations or after the 7/7 bombing. London and other cities were in the grip of rioters in the summer of 2011 when Athens was calm. It did not mean Britain was about to turn fascist. Most European cities in recent decades have seen far worse riots and demonstrations and much greater support for extremist political parties of left and right than Greece.
There are huge problems here but I have been impressed by the stoic resistance of Greek people to the siren appeals of left and right to support political extremism, quit the Euro and their determination to work through their problems and shape a politics and economy that can serve a European Greece in the 21st century.

Denis MacShane

Media Freedom Ukraine

From Decapitation to Deceit – The Intimidation of Ukraine’s Journal-ists
By Denis MacShane

Losing your head is never advisable but it is some decades since chopping off a head was a state ordained punishment.

The one exception is Ukraine where a brave journalist, Georgy Gongadze, who had dared to publish criticisms of the then President Kuchma, was taken out 13 years ago, strangled and then decapitated on the order of the president.

The man who carried out the murder with his own hands was a high-ranking Ukrainian General Oleksly Pukach. Earlier this year he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He had confessed in 2009 after a tape was published recording a conversation in the then President Kuchma’s office, the general who carried out the murder, and two other named high ranking officials. One of those, the former Interior Minister, Volodymyr Lytvyn, died in unex-plained suspicious circumstances in 2005.

The trial of General Pukach was held behind closed doors with no journal-ists president. The man who ordered the murder of the journalist, the former president Kuchma, is still free.

Georgy Gongdze was publisher and editor of the Ukraine web journal, Ukrainska Pravda, which can still be read on line and in Google translation seems very lively, a match for Slate or the Huffington Post. (Pravda.com.ua)

Today’s rulers in Ukraine do not resort to such brutal methods to hit at journalists who they think are insufficiently respectful of those in power.

Gongadze’s news outlet Ukrainska Pravda (‘Ukraine Truth’) is still a vigor-ous online and independent journal. But now it has been cloned by a web paper, Ukrainska Kryvda, (kryvda.com) which means ‘Ukraine Falsehood’. It looks like Ukrainska Pravda, uses the same layout and type face but its stories are all at-tacks on journalists and on anyone who criticizes the ruling powers.

Other more direct means are used to sap morale of journalists. Media out-lets change owners, journalists are fired, there is crude intimidation. According to Natalya Perevalova, an editor at the ATV television station – the most popular in the Black Sea region around Odessa – ‘Journalists are just frightened. They don’t know what might happen to them so they are just cautious and conform-ist.’

Increasingly the press in Ukraine is less able to perform its role as a watchdog of government and political actions, and handicapped from delivering a reliable source of information to the public on the situation in the country. The instrument of “mass-media” has become institutionalised as a public relations and propaganda tool to serve political and commercial objectives without regard to factual reporting or analysis.

The Institute of Mass Information in Ukraine reports that 2012 saw a peak in repression applied against media critical of the government – with 324 cases. That is the highest number of cases in the last 10 years, and this trend is seen as being linked to the impunity of the police, officials and politicians. The trend has continued to rise in 2013.

Those close to President Yanukovich are known as ‘The Family’ and they want to ensure there is no media examination of how state assets or contracts are given on the basis of political loyality and pay-offs.

On the eve of Ukraine’s Journalist Day, 6 June 2013, forty human rights or-ganizations issued a statement expressing concern over the escalating assault on the freedom of expression and reduction of other fundamental freedoms in Ukraine.

The country’s main news agency, the Ukraine National News Agency, UNI-AN, saw five of its best journalists suddenly told in August 2012 that they could not access their computers and instead were relegated to a new TV-news moni-toring service. The journalists had all been involved a year ago in protest at UNIAN against the agency putting out fake stories and censoring reporting. There is even a name for news coverage paid for by oligarchs. It is called ‘Jeansa’.

Another example of media manipulation is the hacking into computers of journalists and then the publication of personal files to try and discredit the vic-tim. Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Institute of Mass Information, has seen material from her computer appear in a spoof newspaper so that her media oversight institute appears unreliable and without credibility.

These tactics and techniques are less murderous than the decapitation of Gogadze but whereas his brutal murder sparked a sense of outrage and a major international campaign, the updated methods used to damage and demoralize free journalism get little attention outside Ukraine.

The EU has tried its best as its seeks to persuade Ukraine to modernize and reform and move closer to a partnership with Europe in place of settling down to subordinate status as a junior partner in the Russian dominated Eura-sian Economic Union. Ukraine has passed a number of laws (Access to Public In-formation) and a wonderfully named decree signed by Yanukovich on 1 July 2013 entitled ‘On Ensuring Observance of Legislation On Freedom if Speech and Preventing Interference in Professional Activity of Journalists’. Like Potemkin villages these are designed to persuade international bodies like the OSCE or Council of Europe that the government is committed to media freedom. The reg-ular attacks on journalists and independent media operations tells the real truth.

The EU’s media monitoring survey on the six Eastern Partnership coun-tries (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) says Ukraine is second bottom in the list just above Armenia. This is a long way from the self-proclaimed European status Ukraine claims for itself.

The EU has focused more on the issue of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister jailed on trumped up charges to remove a powerful popular potential rival to Yanukovich and the ‘Family’ from Ukrainian politics. In addition, the EU has not been willing to make a serious offer to Ukraine in terms of market access for its exports or freer movement of Ukrainian citizens.

Media freedom in Ukraine has not had much profile beyond specialist writers and media freedom NGOs. It is almost as if there has to be a tragic mur-der like that of Gongadze before there is wider public concern about the erosion of journalists’ freedom.

Press freedom is not a given when a country moves from full-on authori-tarianism as at the end of the communist era or some other regime change pro-cess. After 1945, in West Europe there was a deliberate effort to encourage the creation a nucleus of independent, rigorous newspapers and a conservative broadcasting network where news selection was anti-sensationalist to the point of being almost boring.

This did not stop excesses of tabloid journalism underlined in Heinrich Boll’s ‘The Lost Honour of Katherina Blum’, the right-wing excesses of the Her-sant press in France or as can be seen today in the trials for illegal phone hack-ing of Rupert Murdoch’s editors.

Yet there was always a silver thread of high quality journalism with a clear journalistic deontology that set higher standards. Other than possibly Gazeta in Poland the post-Soviet imperium countries have plenty of vivid journalism in papers, on television, and on web sites but there is there a nucleus of reliable, balanced, fair journalism which owes no favour to a political party, a business group or an ideology?

When I worked for the BBC World Service in the 1970s we were not al-lowed to include a fact unless it came from three sources – Reuters, AP, BBC Monitoring etc. At one level this made for agonizingly slow journalism but it al-so raised that status for careful unbiased truth-telling of the BBC to heights that few other news disseminators could match.

The question is how does one create that journalism in cultures like Ukraine where journalists are often political activists with Ipads and see their task as putting their case not reporting facts. Journalism as a liberal profession has taken a severe battering in recent years. You cannot really be a doctor, archi-tect or lawyer without some professional training and a quasi-legal obligation to ensure the patient does not die, the house does not fall down, and the accused are not allowed a defence.

But anyone can write, photograph, video and every blog or Facebook page is now part of journalism. Business journalism is over-taking political and social journalism. The highest paid practitioners of public relations are now to be found in the world of business and finance as they try and steer good news about their clients into the papers and keep out or minimize bad news.

The wall between business and journalism has become porous. In this con-text hoping that Ukraine will conform to standards that are rapidly being eroded in the West of Europe and the wider democratic world may be a hope too far.

That is not a council of despair. The European Union and the Council of Europe via the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights emphasizes media freedom. According to the European Court of Human Rights, EU member states must guarantee media pluralism un-der Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 of that Convention contains provisions similar to those of Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which forms part of the Community acquis. Ukraine of course is some way from membership of the EU as Russia threatens Ukraine with a denial of market access or cheaper gas. And the ‘Fami-ly” prefers doing business à la Russe.

But the best hope for Ukraine’s ambitions to secure greater media free-dom lie in its getting closer to the European Union. Certainly if Ukraine prefers to look north to Belarus or east to Russia and the Kremlin’s Eurasian Economic Community then there can be little hope that media freedom will sink roots.

The British journalist-philosopher, John Lloyd, Director of Journalism at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, has written-recently of Samuel Huntingdon’s 1993 warning in the context of his much dis-cussed thesis on a clash of civilisations : ‘The principle conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilisations.’ Lloyd points out that Huntingdon said the ‘Slavic-Orthodox culture’ to which Ukraine belongs was a civilizational group headed by Russia and distinct from the rest of Europe.

For those in Ukraine who insist on Ukraine’s European destiny this should be worrying. But the evidence of more and more difficulties for freedom of ex-pression in Ukraine suggests that Lloyd is right to raise the question : Quo vadis Ukrainia?

Kuchma’s brutal decapitation tactic to intimidate journalists has been re-placed by a broader set of measures, a strategy almost, decided, financed and enacted by those at the head of the political-business elites that control Ukraine.

The longer Ukraine stays distant from the EU the stronger those forces – and the weaker Ukraine’s media – will become.

Denis MacShane was Minister for Europe in the UK and a former president of the National Union of Journalists. This is based on a talk given in the European Par-liament 20 November 2013 at the invitation of Fabrizio Bertot, MEP, and the Foundation for Democracy and Governance at seminar seminar “Freedom of Speech in Ukraine”

When Will Germany Say Ja

This article was published by the Huffington Post 18 Nov 2013
Why Does Germany Say No to Everything?
Denis MacShane
When will Germany say Yes to something? 30 years ago the fashionable button to sport as an engaged German citizen said “Nuclear. Nein danke.” Now Germans have turned “Just Say Nein” into a political philosophy which is having a profound impact on the rest of Europe.
Munich has just said No to the Winter Olympics in 2022. The Olympics in London, Athens and Barcelona raised morale and boosted Europe’s standing. The Winter Olympics were good for Vancouver and Albertville as well as for Turin and Lillehammer.
Citizens in the Swiss canton of Graubunden home to Davos and St Moritz held a referendum in March to decide if Switzerland should bid for the 2022 games. They said no. A small Swiss canton is one thing but for Bavaria to say No to the biggest winter sport event confirms how Germany now only knows how to say Nein. The word ‘ja’ seems to have been expunged from the German vocabulary.
Germany says No to nuclear power. Germany says No to supporting Nato in Libya. Germany says No to standing up to Vladimir Putin’s burial of democracy and rule of law in Russia. Germany says No to a European defence industry based on the merger of the British and French firms, BAE and EADS, in order to protect smaller German arms firms. Germany says No to post-war liberalism with the expulsion of the FDP from the Bundestag.
Above all, Germany says No to Europe except on exclusively German terms which the rest of Europe cannot hope to meet. Of course every other EU nation, especially the southern EU economies, would love to become export giants with huge balance of trade surpluses. Every other European country wishes it did not have to import BMWs and Mercedes because they would have a vibrant automobile industry of their own.
Citizens in southern Europe wish their politicians just cheated on their doctorates instead of cheating on national accounts. Politicians in southern Europe wish German banks had not offered so much cheap, easy money after the Euro was launched. Instead they wish German bankers had insisted on tougher conditionality to stop housing bubbles and the world of debt and easy credit promoted by the evangelists of pre-2008 deregulated banking.
But asking politicians – or bankers – to be retrospectively virtuous is not grown-up politics. Countries in the south of Europe have sacrificed jobs, growth, income, and up to to 60% of their young citizens now without work as they followed obediently the rules Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schaeuble insisted were the only rules that would make Europe healthy.
Radek Sikorski famously said in Berlin that he feared German inaction more than he feared German action. Sikorski now has to contemplate a Germany that seems only to know how to say No.
It is not clear that the new coalition, once in office, will be able to start saying Yes. Mrs Merkel’s CDU want the coalition to say No to gay marriage while the Social Democrats want the German constitution to be changed to allow plebiscites or referendums on any changes in Germany’s relationship with the European Union. In today’s mood that is short-hand for saying No to any new EU Treaty and signals an end to European market and political integration.
Most worrying is Germany saying No to growth as the philosophy takes root that to focus on increasing German GDP is bad for ecology and social harmony. 100 years ago the German politician and stateman, Willy Brandt was born. He said Ja to more market, Ja to Europe and Ja to an alliance with the United States. He upset the German left which liked to live in a comfort zone of saying Nein. But there is no Willy Brandt around today.
Instead Europe needs a Germany that wants to say Yes to new ideas – liberal or left, more market and more jobs, any policies that can deliver Europe from its current prison of no-growth and increasing debt – and above all a realization that bleeding half the Eurozone to a non-life is unworthy of the European Union and its leaders.
Germany has been a Neinsager for too long. It is time for Germany to say Yes.

Greece is Not Weimar

This article was published by Open Democracy 13 November.

Greece is not Weimar
Denis MacShane 13 November 2013
The insistence by the British commentariat on seeing Greece through the eyes of their own need for Eurozone breakdown is part of British pathology about Europe.
Small bondholder calls Greek and German heads of state liars outside Bank of Greece on World Savings Day, October 31, 2013. Demotix/Konstaninos Tsakalidis [12]. All rights reserved.
To read the reports in British newspapers about Greece since the Eurozone crisis began is to have a sense of imminent breakdown. Paul Mason wrote a long blog [13] for the BBC in October 2012 comparing Greece to Weimar and Hitler’s seizure of power. A year later the Financial Times headlined a comment piece [14] earlier this month ‘Watch Greece. It may be the next Weimar.’ The insistence by the British commentariat on seeing Greece through the eyes of their own need for Eurozone breakdown is part of British pathology about Europe. Greece is not Weimar and it disserves the left to argue it is.
There are indeed major problems in Greece – political, economic, and social. But they need solutions rather than lectures from visiting journalists. Yet the most important aspect of this phase of Greek history is how the Greeks are again offering a principled resistance to the role assigned to them by superior Europeans from the north, or by their own professoriat at Greek, British, American and European universities who are ready with rent-a-column predictions about collapse and chaos.
This mixture of resistance and pride has long echoes in Greek history. Resistance to Ottoman imperialism, to Italian invasion and Nazi occupation, and resistance to the crude Stalinist attempts at an armed takeover to make Greece an Aegean Albania and into a communist country after 1945. The resistance to the Colonels after 1967 led to great cruelty, attempts to strip Greeks of their citizenship, and a sense of pride as students rose against the Colonels in 1974.
Now that same sense of resistance can be seen in the refusal of Greeks to play the role allotted to them by ‘experts’ like Professor Nouriel Roubini, or vulgar Hellenophobes who edit the Bild Zeitung or Daily Mail that they have no place in the modern European economy and should revert to using the drachma or performing Zorba the Greek dances for the delight of rich tourists.
The City coined the term ‘Grexit’ in 2010 which was seized by the Financial Times and London papers that then used the term ‘Grexit’ (it only works in English!) endlessly in headlines and columns to create a self-fulfilling sense that Greece would be better off outside the Eurozone and even the EU.
This however is not what the Greeks want. Even the most powerful left grouping in Greece, Syriza, rejects both a return to the Drachma and a ‘Grexit’ from the EU. Instead what Greece asks for – not unreasonably – is some revision of the counter-productive austerity programme that the EU-IMF-ECB troika has imposed on Greece along with other over-indebted countries.
The Greek left
Syriza has brought together many disparate anti-system forces in Greece, much like Beppe Grillo’s Cinque Estella movement in Italy. Anti-capitalist Maoists rub shoulder with anti-carnivorous Greens. The once mighty socialist Pasok has shrunk to about 7 per cent in the opinion polls. But as with the eclipse of other social democratic parties at different stages in national political history, Pasok can come back.
Pasok’s tragedy was that it won power on a programme of a statist nationalism and statist control of the economy in the 1980s just at a time when the rest of the European left was copying Sweden and the Netherlands in an open market theory aimed at liberal social democracy where private enterprise would co-exist with social justice mechanism – the Delors idea of Europe.
Pasok politicians in Greece instead sought to turn citizens into clients – offering specific jobs in the public sector in exchange for votes. New Democracy – the main rightist formation – was as bad as Pasok. Hence the stories of schools with 20 pupils but 17 gym teachers, or a railway system where the wage bill was a hundred times the ticket revenue. Athens had a municipal radio station which earned no money but which employed people sent by local politicians who did an hour or two of work before going off to other jobs.
Blaming German banks
The low-interest credit that flowed into Greece when it entered the Euro actually prevented necessary reform. Theo Pangalos is the rumbustious ex-communist whose father, a general, was one of Greece’s dictators in the 1920s. Pangalos switched to Pasok and was foreign and culture minister in the 1990s. Now talking of the Euro decade he says Mazi ta fagame – ‘We ate it all together.’ Both Greek citizens, politicians of left and right, and local capitalists consumed the cheap capital that flowed into Greece.
Blaming the wicked German banks for lending the money or firms like Siemens for corrupting Greek politicians is feel-righteous rhetoric. Pangalos, now 75 so past personal ambition, told a stark truth – namely that all of Greece enjoyed the easy money that flowed with the Euro. Both Pasok and New Democracy were in power in this period and utterly failed to change the political-economic culture to prepare Greeks for the tougher choices that a full integration into the Eurozone would entail.
Trade unions in Greece are linked to political parties and there is no centralized social democratic autonomous and hegemonic trade unionism as in Germany or the Nordic countries, or even more tenuously in the TUC in Britain. Each ministry had its own unions, its own pay deals with 2, 3 or even 4 month’s extra pay at Christmas according to the principles of clientalism that governed politicians’ relations with the swollen public sector. When the reformist George Papandreou became Pasok prime minister in 2009 he asked how many state employees were on the Greek payroll. No-one had an answer.
So the Eurocrisis is also a crisis about the organization of the Greek state and Greek capitalism which was unfit for purpose long before 2008-7. The grotesque tax avoidance covers all sections of society. Papandreou turned to Google Earth as a tax collecting tool because rich Greek dentists or lawyers claimed annual taxable incomes of €20,000 yet had swimming pools in each property they owned.
It is easy to describe the malady, not so easy to prescribe the cure, assuming that Greece stays fully democratic, operates open borders, and allows people control over their bank accounts. Tanks would have to be in the streets in front of ATMs if Greeks thought their Euros would be devalued into drachmas.
Classic stoicism
While the ugly excesses of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn make for easy TV reporting, it is the classic stoicism of the Greeks that is the most impressive. Finally, the Greek government has taken rigorous action against the thugs and racists of Golden Dawn. Like communists and extreme rightists in the former western Germany, whose rights were limited under the German Grundgesetz, Greek democracy is not going to allow Golden Dawn to turn into neo-fascist day. The methods may worry constitutional free-for-all purists but Greeks welcome some curb on overt neo-Nazism.
The extremely heterogenous Syriza and its effective publicist leader, Alexis Tsipras, catches headlines and support, but it is not remotely a governing party. It tried to win a censure motion on the government in mid-November but was easily seen off by 153 votes to 124. Some Syriza mlitants and MPs adopt the anti-Euro slogans of Marine Le Pen, Ukip or Jean Luc Mélanchon. But Tsipras is too canny to allow such reversion into Balkan fragmentation to become official Syriza policy.
What is surprising about the Greek crisis is how relatively calm it has been. More people were killed, more buildings set on fire, and more shops looted in the riots in London and other UK cities in August 2011 than we have seen in Greece since then. Small clashes in Syntagma Square between a few score police and demonstrators look exciting on television but to anyone who has been in real tension regions of Europe in recent decades or seen what a real mass demonstration and occupation can be like, the Greeks are living with their difficulties and not dreaming that there is a single, simple policy change that can make all the difference.
There is sadly a culture of political violence and terrorism in Greece left over from the German Rote Armee Fraktion or Italian Red Brigade cultures of the 1970s, but it remains fringe activity.
The suffering is real. The Greek GDP has declined by 25 per cent since 2008. Unemployment amongst young people is over 60 per cent. Barter has returned and many poorer people do not choose between heating and eating – instead they both freeze and go hungry. Unemployment benefit runs out after 12 months. Investment into Greece has collapsed and while the cuts and lack of imports allows Greece to have a primary surplus, the way the country has been placed in a modern equivalent of a nineteenth century debtors’ prison shames the rest of Europe.
Help Greece
Meanwhile reforms are agonizingly slow. Greece has more coastline than the rest of Europe which should open the way to tourist development. But there is no adequate land register, local lawyers take years to agree a deal, and the local Mayor always wants a cut. The cost of flying to Greece is prohibitive as there is a ban on building any new airport within 200 km of Athens, which charges the highest landing fees in Europe.
The most obvious way to help Greece is to write off some of the debt incurred when German and French bankers were showering Euros on Greece before 2008 in order to boost their own balance sheets and justify their bonuses. Like crack, cheap Euros were addictive but the peddler and not just the addict should accept responsibility.
But this requires a mature understanding of modern Greece not just Weimar comparison language. Greece is not Weimar and its people will resist the pressure to revert to subordinate Balkan status in place of full participation in the European Union.
It would be good if Europe had leaders – or even editors – in Germany or France (forget about Britain) who could make the case for a new deal to get money flowing into the Greek economy. It would be good if the Greek democratic left would stop blaming everyone else and occasionally pick up a mirror. Gnothi seauton – ‘Know thyself’, is famously inscribed on the pronaos at Delphi.
Greeks are beginning to know themselves and understand that the pre-crisis Greece was unsustainable. But regular contact with Greece reveals a country that will stay European and not gives wiseacres in London the pleasure of seeing Greece collapse and redrachmarise.
Meanwhile Greece needs advice and its ordinary people who pay the price for bad, sad politics and economics need solidarity from the rest of Europe. But it would be helpful if the word Weimar could be quietly forgotten as Greece in 2013 is neither Germany of 1923 nor 1933.

Conservative Government Will Not Back Justice for Magnitsky

This letter was published in Independent 8 November 2013

No justice for Magnitsky
I first asked David Cameron to raise the Sergei Magnitsky case with Vladimir Putin in the Commons in 2010 (Andy McSmith diary, 6 November). This was followed by an appeal to William Hague in 2011 to adopt a UK Justice for Magnitsky Act banning his killers from entering the UK or having assets here.
Numerous appeals by MPs of all parties have followed and it was good to read that Dominic Raab continues the campaign. But the plain fact is that this UK Government is not going to follow the example of the US Congress and President Obama and tell President Putin that his functionaries involved in the atrocious death in agony of Sergei Magnitsky are not welcome in the UK.
Top Tories don’t talk about freedom any more if money is to be made.
Dr Denis MacShane
London SW1

The British Intellectual and Antisemitism

This article appeared in Die Presse 7 November 2013

Antisemitismus als Problem für britische Intellektuelle
Hat Englands geistige Elite vor 1939 noch Juden abgelehnt, ist an deren Stelle nun die Ablehnung Israels getreten.
Von Denis MacShane (Die Presse)
England hat innerhalb Europas wohl die beschränkteste intellektuelle Klasse. Nur sehr wenige Professoren – wenn sie nicht gerade Fremdsprachenlehrer oder Spezialisten etwa für französische oder italienische Geschichte sind – sprechen oder lesen eine fremde Sprache. Sie greifen nicht zu „Le Monde“, „Spiegel“ oder „El País“, und manchmal warten sie jahrelang darauf, dass die Übersetzung eines grundlegenden Werks in einer der europäischen Sprachen in London erscheint.

Zurzeit werden in Großbritannien umfangreiche Bücher über den Ersten Weltkrieg publiziert. Viele davon kommen ohne Zitate aus französischen oder deutschen Quellen aus – es sei denn, diese liegen schon übersetzt vor.
Geht es um die Gründung Israels, scheinen nur wenige britische Intellektuelle die Cambon-Deklaration vom Juni 1917 zu kennen, die der Balfour-Deklaration (November 1917) um Monate zuvorkam und mit der Frankreich sich verpflichtete, die Notwendigkeit einer jüdischen Heimstätte am östlichen Ufer der Mittelmeers anzuerkennen und zu unterstützen. Dass das Mandat schließlich Großbritannien übertragen wurde, verlieh selbstverständlich der Balfour-Deklaration größeres Gewicht.

Eigentümliche Leidenschaften
Man kann hunderte Darstellungen zur Gründung Israels lesen, ohne zu wissen, dass Frankreich das Recht der Juden auf eine Heimstätte und einen eigenen Staat ebenso unterstützte wie Großbritannien.
Dafür kann man täglich widerliche antisemitische Tweets oder abenteuerliche Enthüllungen lesen, dass Juden weltweit die Medien und die Wirtschaft kontrollierten. Zu behaupten, die Besorgnis, die solche Behauptungen auslösen, sei künstlich und nur hochgespielt, um die Politik der gegenwärtigen israelischen Regierung zu unterstützen, ist eine eigentümliche englische Leidenschaft, ein Steckenpferd von Intellektuellen wie Brian Klug.
Klug wurde als Hauptredner zu einer Konferenz über Antisemitismus eingeladen, die am 8. und 9.November 2013 im Jüdischen Museum in Berlin stattfindet. Gibt es einen Zusammenhang zwischen Klugs Weigerung, einen „neuen Antisemitismus“ seit 2000 zu bemerken, und Versuchen, die Geschichte umzuschreiben? Ist es nicht für Israel und die Erinnerung an den Holocaust gleichermaßen gefährlich, aktuelle Entwicklungen des Antisemitismus zu verharmlosen oder sie zu leugnen?
Das provinzielle England, das niemals unter der Herrschaft der Nazis leiden musste, in dem der Kommunismus eher ein Thema auf Dinnerpartys Intellektueller war oder sich auf den Kampf um die Macht in Gewerkschaften beschränkte, zeigte nie großes Interesse an der Kritik der Theorie des doppelten Völkermords – jener derzeitigen Strömung in Europa, die Rot und Braun gleichsetzt und den Holocaust trivialisiert.
Dennoch ist es gerade England, wo mehr noch als in anderen europäischen Staaten die Existenz eines „modernen“ Antisemitismus bestritten wird, wo sich ein solcher aber weiterentwickelt hat und zu einem Leitmotiv islamistischer Ideologie geworden ist.
Wie der „Guardian“-Journalist Jonathan Freedland beobachtet hat, ist die Debatte über Antisemitismus in England verschlüsselt und verschwommen. Er schreibt: „Zeigt der Antisemitismus sich nicht in SS-Uniform oder im Hitlergruß, werden wir regelmäßig in Verwirrung gestürzt. Plötzlich finden wir uns in einem Seminarraum wieder und rufen nach Experten, die uns erklären, ob dieser Satz antijüdisch war oder nicht, und regelmäßig endet die Diskussion ohne ein klares Ergebnis. Gesteigert wird die Verwirrung sehr oft noch durch Juden, die anderen Juden widersprechen…“

Antiisraelische Linke
Insgesamt weigert sich die linke jüdische Intelligenz in England, Antisemitismus zu verurteilen, sofern eine bestimmte Linie nicht überschritten wird. Repräsentiert wird sie durch Menschen wie Brian Klug, die es sich zur Aufgabe gemacht haben, Klagen über den Antisemitismus als Deckmantel für eine unkritische Unterstützung israelischer Politik zu denunzieren.
Ja, es gibt Menschen, deren Loyalität zu Israel so weit geht, dass sie jedes Hinterfragen staatlichen israelischen Handelns in den seit 1967 besetzten Gebieten oder der Diskriminierung von unter israelischer Hoheit lebenden Nichtjuden als antisemitisch brandmarken, und die jeden Juden verurteilen, der sich nicht bedingungslos hinter die Politik der gegenwärtigen rechten Regierung Israels stellt. Doch noch schlimmer sind zweifellos jene, die einfach leugnen, dass es einen neuen Antisemitismus gibt.
Als Nichtjude schrieb ich 2008 das Buch „Globalisierung des Hasses: Der neue Antisemitismus“. Es setzte die Arbeit einer vom britischen Parlament beauftragten Kommission fort, deren Leitung ich 2005 nach meinem Rücktritt vom Posten des Vizeaußenministers übernommen hatte. Die Arbeit der parlamentarischen Kommission wie auch mein Buch deckten Beispiele eines modernen Antisemitismus in Großbritannien auf, die Grund zur Sorge sein sollten.

Nachhaltige Angriffe
Brian Klug als führender Leugner eines neuen Antisemitismus attackierte mein Buch. Er setzte meine Analyse und Kritik des Antisemitismus mit antisemitischer Ideologie gleich. Wie andere auch streitet er obsessiv gegen Aktivitäten der EU, die sich gegen Antisemitismus wenden. Die 2005 vorgestellte Arbeitsdefinition zum Antisemitismus des EU Monitoring Committee (EUMC) wurde zu Recht als wichtiger, wissenschaftlicher und ausgewogener Schritt gelobt, in Worte zu fassen, was Antisemitismus im 21.Jahrhundert ausmacht.
Doch sie ist gleichfalls Ziel für nachhaltige Angriffe von Ideologen, besonders islamistischer, aber auch durch antiisraelische Linke, die den Gedanken daran, dass Antisemitismus noch immer existiert, aus der aktuellen Politik verbannen möchten.
Niemanden stört es, wenn für Solidarität mit Palästinensern geworben wird, ohne Aspekte der Hamas-Ideologie, der Korruption oder das gestörte Verhältnis der sie unterstützenden wahabitischen Staaten zu Menschenrechten, Demokratie und Meinungsfreiheit zu hinterfragen. Aber es scheint inakzeptabel, wenn argumentiert wird, dass Israel ein Recht auf Existenz hat und dass die jüdische Bevölkerung Israels viel erreicht hat, worauf sie stolz sein kann.

Der Preis für Provinzialismus
Brian Klug seien seine Ansichten gegönnt. Aber seine Obsession, den Antisemitismus zu leugnen, schwächt und verfälscht die gegenwärtige Diskussion über Antisemitismus in England. Das führt zu der paradoxen Situation, dass nicht jüdische Verteidiger der Juden stigmatisiert werden, während jüdische Antisemitismus-Leugner wie Brian Klug ungestört tun können, wonach ihnen beliebt.
Das ist der Preis für Provinzialismus und die Unfähigkeit britischer Intellektueller, in universellen Kategorien zu denken und zu streiten. Haben sie vor 1939 Juden abgelehnt, ist an deren Stelle die Ablehnung Israels getreten. In diesem Sinn ist Brian Klug ein sehr britischer Denker.

Time to Europeanise Defence

The news about massive job losses at BAE is a disaster foretold. Last year BAE which had put all its eggs in the US military-industrial defence basket based on the uncritical worship of anything American of the Clinton-Bush years realised Washington was cutting budgets and had no special relationship with US arms makers.
Sensibly BAE looked to a merger with the French based EADS to create a real European defence industry. Briitsh ministers accepted this despite their residual dislike of anything with Euro in the title.
But it was torpedoed by Angela Merkel who is highly protectionist when it comes to German defence contractors.
So now BAE is in trouble and its employees will pay the price.
Can ministers and other politicians raise themselves from their distrust of all things European and talk to France about shaping a real UK-French Euro defence capability with willing partners? If the Germans want to stay outside, so be it.
I made some of these points in an article for teh French think tank CEPS last spring. It was also published by British Influence in London.

Point of View: Europe undefended
Written by Denis MacShane on Friday, 19 April 2013. Posted in Defence, News

Amongst his many problems, France’s President Hollande has a tricky decision to make. He has to decide soon whether France’s military budget falls below the 2 per cent of GDP level set by Nato as the minimum to be taken seriously as a military puissance. France is scheduled to produce a white paper on defence which will decide whether France a military power with at least modest global reach.
As always in France three options are being discussed. The lowest budget spend would take French military spending down to 1.3 per cent of GDP. No more rapid deployment forces backed by warplanes to knock Islamists back from their attempted conquest of Mali.
The contents of the defence white paper – written by a committee which included the British ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts – is being leaked as different factions jockey for the president’s ear.
Regional papers in France are printing horror stories about base closures and the removal of regiments which ever since Napoleon’s time have been stationed in every French region so that the military were fully integrated into the fabric of French state administration.
France would thus join Britain as a shrinking military nation. In last month’s UK budget setting out spending for the next years the Ministry of Defence suffered the biggest cuts of any government department. Britain’s national security officials are desperately massaging defence figures to keep total spend around 2 per cent but with polls indicating a change of government after 2015, the chances of a beleaguered Labour-led administration spending new money on defence are zero. The imperatives of spending on education, health and welfare to secure re-election for governments in Europe’s lost decade trump any national security demands on taxpayer’s money.
Britain and France are slowly becoming members of the Euro Defence Club of Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark or Sweden where defence spending as a share of GDP is just a shade above 1 per cent. According to the London-based security think tank IISS, European NATO members’ defence spending in 2012 was, in real terms, around 11% lower than in 2006.
Both Britain and France will hang on to their nuclear power status which gives the entry ticket as permanent members of the UN Security Council but the rest of their military spend will allow them to provide bands and parades for visiting dignitaries or funerals but putting an army into the field is now beyond Europe’s capability. The intervention in Libya was only possible because of US reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities. President Hollande made much of his reception in Mali after French soldiers chased out Islamists but they have simply gone to the hills and are waging a slow war of killing French soldiers one by one or kidnapping and executing any French citizens they can find.
This slow erosion of Europe’s military capability comes as Russia and China are increasing military budgets and the US appears to have given up military power as a tool in stabilizing the world. As China over-takes Britain to become the world’s fifth largest arms exporter, Washington is pulling its troops out of Germany where Britain is also evacuating its post-1945 military presence. The Polish government offered London barracks and huge military training areas in the hope that Britain would build a new military relationship with its old ally, but London rejected the offer out of hand. Poland is also nervous as the US is dropping its plans to install missile shield bases on Polish soil.
One obvious answer would be to Europeanise Europe’s defence and military spending and profile. Europe’s combined military spend is still pretty big but each nation insists on maintaining its own fragmented defence industries producing different armoured vehicles, warplanes, rifles, helicopters and naval vessels. Each country is producing its own drones when a common Eurodrone, based on the Airbus model of inter-state cooperation, makes more sense. There was a move last year to merge BAE, Britain’s main defense contractor and EADS, the European aerospace and defence giant. But it was torpedoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel under pressure from German defence firms who feared competition.
There is no defence lobby of weight left in Europe other than parochial local industries. No-one dares question the sacrosanct development budgets even though the military probably contribute more to stability and the possibility of peaceful open market growth than all the armies of development workers. Another suggestion is that defence spending should be excluded from the limit of 3 per cent of GDP for government borrowing – in other words a form of defense Keynesianism that would be welcome by skilled workers who see jobs evaporating as politicians raid defense budgets.
Most probably Europe will continue its slow disarmament. The rising Asian powers now spend more on defence than Europe. Defence is too costly, complex and controversial for the average politician as Europe slashes military budgets in the hope its diplomats and development ministers can deliver a stable world. At a Franco-British summit a few years ago President Chirac turned to the British prime minister and said ‘You know, Tony, there is only group more conservative than the military and that is the defence industry.” Sadly there is no political leadership around to knock sense into European soldiers and defence firms before it is too late.

Where Can Europe Find Leadership?

This published in The Globalist 5 November 2013
Europe’s Next Leadership: Unknown, Unelected, Unloved
Europe’s system of horse-trading to choose leaders has produced non-leadership.
By Denis MacShane, November 5, 2013

For a continent that has spent decades rejecting the Führerprinzip, Europe is today obsessed with its lack of leadership.
In every capital, editorialists bemoan the absence of leadership. For months, it was hoped that a strongly re-elected Angela Merkel would fill the vacuum.
But it is now clear the next coalition government in Germany will remain cautious, inward-looking and unwilling to open the German purse to promote growth in Europe.
Instead, Europeans must wait for next summer to see if a new leadership for Europe will emerge. It is the most important moment in Europe’s history since the Treaty of Rome.
The European Commission under the two-term José Manuel Barroso, a former Portuguese prime minister who had previously distinguished himself by trying to be close to George W. Bush, is seen as the weakest in decades.
The President of the European Council, an innovation under the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, has made little difference. Herman Van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister, has used the skills of compromise and conciliation honed in the complexities of Belgian politics to keep 28 EU national leaders together but has not impacted on Europe.
Like the Commission president, the Council president is nominated — not elected – to the post. The European Parliament is elected, but is not loved and now convinces just two in five European citizens to vote in its election.
The European Parliament will stay pro-European
Next summer, all the elected and selected leadership posts in Europe come up for grabs. 766 members of the European Parliament have to be elected. The Presidents of the Commission, the Council, the Parliament, the Eurogroup and the EU Foreign Minister have to be chosen.
France’s president François Hollande has told the Nouvel Observateur that “Next May, the European Parliament could be for the large part composed of anti-Europeans. It would be regression and a threat of paralysis.”
Hollande is trying to stir his socialist party into action. The latest opinion polls show Marine Le Pen’s extreme right Front national with 24% of the votes in the European Parliament elections.
But in Britain, the latest European Parliament election polls gives the Labor Party 35% compared to 22% for the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party. The ruling Conservatives, like the ruling Socialists in France, are coming in third.
The European Parliament election is always a moment for a protest vote against governments in power or a vote for loud-mouthed populist politicians who rant against capitalism, Muslims, the EU itself, or in the case of Hungary’s Jobbik party against Jews.
This underscores that there is an ugly side to Europe’s self-proclaimed virtue as a region of tolerant intelligent politics, especially when compared to the Tea Party Republicans in the United States. People with baser instincts obviously exist anywhere.
The important point to remember is that, independent of Hollande’s woes in France, the overall dominance of the European Parliament by mainstream democratic and broadly pro-European parties will be maintained.
Not united in protest against Europe
The anti-EU parties are split. Syriza in Greece is on the left, while the Alternative für Deutschland is hostile to the Euro, but otherwise supports neo-liberal economics and a stronger EU internal market.
Likewise, the Dutch PVV party headed by the fanatical Muslim-hating Geert Wilders is not on the same page as UKIP. The latter simply wants the UK to quit the EU and has no other major policies to speak of.
It is worth remembering that in France in the 1960s and 1970s, the communists scored up to 25% in elections on a platform of hostility to Brussels. The Commission was seen as a tool of western capitalism. The Communist vote was also a protest vote against immigrants coming in and “taking” French jobs.
Marine Le Pen today uses similar language, albeit from a far right rather than a far left standpoint.
The real choice that matters for Europe
The real challenge will not be to secure a European Parliament free of anti-Europeans, but to choose a set of executives that can lead Europe out of its current morose state.
This is Hollande’s real opportunity and Merkel’s real challenge. To devote serious thought and invest serious time in discussing with fellow EU leaders how to find a quartet of presidents – Commission, Council, Eurogroup and Parliament – as well as the Foreign Affairs representative.
These are the individuals who must work in consort to lead Europe out of its current state of economic stagnation, if not misery. It is this lack of dynamism and direction which gives rise to extremist scapegoating politics particularly against “foreign” faces.
The last three Commission presidents – Jacques Santer, Romano Prodi and José Manuel Barroso – were chosen by British prime ministers who waited until other candidates exhausted their votes. They then stepped in with a man favored by London.
But the power to veto that enabled Britain to get its way in each case has been given up. Moreover, Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, has marginalized British influence in Brussels with his In-Out referendum pledge which many in Europe think will lead to a British exit from the EU.
Instead, the European Parliament has new powers to propose a candidate in line with a majority of MEPs. The decision to nominate lies with the 28 national government leaders grouped in the European Council, but the European Parliament can veto a nomination they do not like.
The Rubik’s cube of candidates
All 28 heads of government have to choose a President of their Council and the 17 Eurozone government heads have to choose a President of the Eurogroup. Finally, there is the EU’s foreign affairs supremo, again a choice by majority vote of the 28 heads of government.
It is far more complex than a papal election as the Rubik’s cube of candidates gets turned and turned. Balance needs to be established between north and south, between big and small countries, between old and new Europe.
Sadly, it isn’t just a matter of picking the best-qualified candidates, such as Poland’s energetic foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, who is busy learning French to charm Paris.
There are also 28 Commissioners to be nominated from each country. Everyone agrees the Commission is absurdly over-staffed – bigger than the US or UK cabinet, with four times as many members as the entire Swiss government.
But which country will forego the right to have their man or woman in Brussels even if Commissioners swear an oath to serve the common European cause and leave their national political preferences at home?
In the past, too many duds have been sent to Brussels as a reward for loyal services to the governing party or to find a job for a dumped prime minister or minister.
The best Presidents of the Commission have not been former prime ministers but men like Jacques Delors or Roy Jenkins who never made it to the top rank in national politics but shone in Brussels.
To be sure, Europe cannot outsource the choice of its leaders to a headhunting agency. However, the existing system of horse-trading in private late night corridor deals has produced the current non-leadership that has let Europe drift close to the rocks.
If Hollande and Merkel are serious about wanting the EU to work well in the future, they should begin now by deciding how to decide the EU’s next leadership. There is barely six months to go.