The Kosovo Conundrum

There is a puzzle over the report published by Clint Williamson, the US diplomat appointed in 2011 to investigate the allegations made by a Swiss politician, Dick Marty, in a Council of Europe report on crimes committed by elements of the Kosovan Liberation Army in the 1998-99 independence war.
There is no disputing atrocious acts of violence took place. Visit Muslim Albanian cemeteries in Kosovo and you will see grave stones with scores of different dates but the date of death is always identical. It is the day the Milosevic militia came to terrorise the Albanian population. For years Kosovo had tried to win its acceptance like Croatia, or Slovenia, or Macedonia as a small nation born out of the dissolution of the Yugoslav federal republic.
Begrade refused to deal with the peaceful political movement led by Ibrahim Rugova and as so often happen, younger, angrier activists turned to violence in the face of Serb obduracy. They formed the Kosovan Liberation Army. Its chief political leader was a young exile student from Switzerland, Hashim Thaci. The war intensified in brutality until finally the democracies were forced to intervene and the Serbs lost control of Kosovo. Thaci was 30 years old and was the smooth, diplomatic, moderate face of the KLA in the negotiations in the winter of 1999 with the West to try and stop the violence.
Since then there have been accusation and counter-accusations. The most lurid was in a report published by the extreme anti-American and anti-Nato Swiss politician, Dick Marty, who was a Swiss Council of Europe delegate. He has now retired. Under its headline on “Kosovo PM is head of human organ and arms ring, Council of Europe reports” the Guardian depicted Thaci as a monster:
“Kosovo’s prime minister is the head of a “mafia-like” Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe, according to a Council of Europe inquiry report on organised crime.”
People who knew Thaci and respected his patient determined efforts to bring his country to a European future were shocked and dismayed.
But the more the Council of Europe report was examined the more no-one could find evidence to back the lurid claims accusing Thaci. Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who prosecuted Milosevic at the Hague tribunal, wrote an angry article in the London Review of Books pointing out the the Council of Europe contained alleged evidence from a witness who did not exist. He asked if behind its publication from a Council of Europe parliamentary assembly where Russia played a leading role lay a political motive to stop Kosovo’s bid to be accepted as an independent state.
Now the US diplomat Clint Williamson has produced a report which has nothing to say about the headlines accusing Thaci of being an organ smuggler during the conflict. Williamson in rather odd interviews, notably on the BBC World Tonight programme, hints that he could, but doesn’t want to, say more.
Certainly some KLA people as is the norm with all so called ‘liberation’ struggles turned the struggle into a profit-lining racket. Look at how the IRA, FARC, the ANC, Hamas, Fatah and other groups on how the freedom struggle can be made into a money spinner for criminals who latch on.
There were also terrible atrocities committed. These were reported at the time, have been documented and recorded in all reports from the Marty one to the latest.
There is general agreement that those responsible for these crimes should be brought to justice. There is a paradox that in Britain we decided to forget and ignore murders, and torture committed by IRA killers in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of the men who oversaw these atrocities now hold government posts. Others sentenced to long terms of imprisonment have been let out.
The price of securing peace was judged to be worth more than ensuring justice was done to the nth degree for the victims of IRA torture, disappearances and killings.
The hate unleashed by the Serb attacks on innocent Kosovan Albanians was as bad as anything seen in the épuration in France in 1944-45, in Algeria either before or after independence in 1982 or any number of conflicts in Asia, Africa or Latin America in recent times.
Kosovo meanwhile is stable and peaceful. There was an election in June in which Hashim Thaci’s PDK party emerged as the biggest party but without a working majority. Now his opponents are trying to put together a heterogeneous coalition with Ramush Haradinaj as prime minister.
Haradinai was also a KLA leader and his memoir of the war with a front cover showing him as a guerrilla leader is an important text. He was briefly prime minister in 2005 and was indicted by the Hague Tribunal for crime committed in 1998/99. As Europe Minister for the UK I urged him to go to the Hague where the charges were thrown out.
After the Williamson report, a Serb woman on the BBC World Tonight whose brother disappeared in the convict 15 years ago complained that whereas the Serb brutes accused of atrocities had been sent to the Hague, the Kosovan killers had not. This is not true. Harardin Bula of the KLA is serving 13 years for killing Serbs. The Kosovan war was short and intense unlike the wars further north notably in Bosnia which has produced the largest number of Serb indictees and conviction.
But this burning sense in Belgrade that the Kosovans have been let off lightly remains strong and since everyone in the international community tends to be parti pris the idea that politics and retribution are not part of the process of inquiries is far-fetched.
Meanwhile Kosovo has a rather boring political stalemate as the parties jostle to form a government. Rather like Belgian or Dutch politics where the country can take months or more than a year to shape a government, the Kosovans are getting used to the muddle and difficulties of European democratic electoral politics.
Serbs account for only 1.5 per cent of the total Kosovan population but have 9 members (7.5 per cent) in the 120 strong parliament. Thaci’s peace overtures to Belgrade have been encouraged by the EU’s High Representative, Catherine Ashton, and the world has seen far more handshakes and meetings between Pristina and Belgrade than in the first years after the conflict.
Is all this put at risk by Williamson’s part endorsement of the Marty report? The US diplomat did not confirm the Marty headlines about Thaci and organ trafficking but neither would be rule them out.
He returns now to America with mission only partly accomplished, It will be up to his successor to decide on indictments and then a court jointly based in the Hague and Kosovo will hold trials.
So 15 years after the fighting stopped and Kosovo could embark on its twisting road to being a small European state – about the same size as Baltic nations – the search for justice and final definitive accountability for what happened in the dark summer and autumn of 1998 and winter and spring of 1999 goes on and on.

Denis MacShane was Britain’s Minister for the Balkans 2001-2005 and UK Council of Europe delegate 2005-2010. He is author of ‘Why Kosovo Still Matters’ 2011.

Interests vs Value

My contribution to a Carnegie Europe discussion on whether Interests or Value Matter More in European foreign policy

Every English schoolboy is brought up on Lord Palmerston’s famous dictum “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” In fact, that was not true when Lord Palmerston was British prime minister in the nineteenth century, and it is less true today.

For democracies, values lie at the heart of identity and a sense of worth. London has just hosted a major world conference on mutilating little girls’ genitals in the name of patriarchy or faith. There is some British interest here, as such mutilations inside the UK are costly to health services. But this about an assertion of values. Nondemocracies or not-quite democracies worry less about values, but they have stunted states, economies, and societies as a result.

The task of leadership is to align values and interests. European values were supported in 1999 when NATO’s bombing campaign put an end to Serbia’s slaughter and oppression of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, but that suited European interests as it slowed the tsunami of asylum seekers from the former Yugoslavia.

Right now, interests and values are in competition over dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Interests are winning out—just. But the Kremlin and Putin appeasers in EU capitals would be foolish to think values can be ignored forever.

Why the EU and Switzerland Must Co-exist

Schweiz am Sonntag  20.7.2014

 

EU muss mit der Schweiz eine Lösung finden

Von Denis MacShane

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Die Nachricht: Die Schweiz und die EU streiten um die bilaterale Beziehung. Auch in Grossbritannien läuft die Debatte um die europäische Integration.

 

Der Kommentar: Als ich 1979 eine Stelle in der Schweiz antrat, gestanden sich die Schweizer noch kaum ein, dass es die Europäische Gemeinschaft überhaupt gab. Halb nackt und zitternd musste ich an der Grenze einen medizinischen Test absolvieren, bevor ich die Erlaubnis erhielt, für eine internationale Organisation zu arbeiten. Es gab Strafen für jeden, der es wagte, ein Kilo Fleisch oder Käse aus dem viel günstigeren Frankreich hineinzuschmuggeln. In meiner Wohnung war der Platz für einen Kühlschrank ein paar tückische Zentimeter zu klein bemessen für die billigeren Standardgeräte von jenseits der Grenze. Sehnsüchtig blickten Schweizer auf die sanften Hügel der französischen Nachbarschaft und träumten von einem der geräumigen Häuser, die in der Schweiz so klein waren.

 

Mit den Jahren veränderte sich das alles. Sanft liess die Schweiz ihre helvetischen Eigenheiten fallen, sie öffnete die Grenzen für den freien Personenverkehr, erlaubte ihren Bürgern, in der EU Grundbesitz zu erwerben, und übernahm die Normen des EU-Binnenmarkts. Der Schweizer Franken wurde an den Euro-Kurs gekoppelt. Die Schweiz war immer das europäische Land, das gegenüber Einwanderern am offensten war. Die tollen Tore, die kosovarische Fussballspieler an der WM für die Schweiz schossen, sind Zeugnis davon. Die Credit Suisse schätzt, dass ein Viertel des Schweizer Wirtschaftswachstums der letzten Jahre der Einwanderung geschuldet ist. 10 Prozent des Bruttoinlandprodukts basieren inzwischen auf dem Rohstoffhandel von Europäern, Amerikanern und Asiaten, die in Zug und am Genfersee leben.

 

Trotz dieser wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Verflechtung mit dem Rest Europas hat die direkte Demokratie der Schweiz eine stärkere politische Integration meist abgelehnt. 1992 sagten die Schweizer Nein zum Beitritt zum EWR, und im Februar stimmten sie knapp für die Einführung von Kontingenten im Stil der 1930er-Jahre, die für Arbeitskräfte aus der EU gelten sollen. Auf einen Schlag ist die halbe Integration der Schweiz in die EU, die gut funktionierte, in Gefahr – weil der freie Personenverkehr eine Grundfreiheit der EU darstellt. Zaghafte Verhandlungen wurden seither gestartet, doch nun hat Brüssel in Form eines Mandats der EU-Regierungschefs an die Kommission harte Bedingungen diktiert. Die EU-Unterhändler sollen klarstellen, dass die Regeln des Binnenmarkts inklusive der Personenfreizügigkeit nicht für die Schweiz abgeändert werden können. Zusätzlich soll Bern akzeptieren, dass die EU-Kommission weitgehende Kompetenzen für die Überwachung bilateraler Vereinbarungen erhalten soll. Der Europäische Gerichtshof soll Streitigkeiten zwischen Bern und Brüssel schlichten und eine «vorläufige Auslegung» eines Rechtsdisputs vornehmen können. Diese krude Sprache der Macht der EU wird in der Schweiz aufgenommen wie die Wiederkehr des Habsburg-Tyrannen Gessler, den Wilhelm Tell einst erschoss. Für die SVP, die hinter der Anti-Einwanderungs-Initiative stand, ist klar, dass Verhandlungen mit Brüssel abgebrochen werden sollten und die EU dorthin geschickt werden muss, wo der Pfeffer wächst.

 

Manche Schweizer setzen nun viel Hoffnung in den neuen Kommissionspräsidenten Jean-Claude Juncker, der als Verteidiger des Luxemburger Finanzplatzes in Zürich und Genf bewundert wird. Aber Juncker muss auf das Europaparlament hören, in dem die Schweiz wenig Verbündete hat. Die Schweizer Unterhändler sind gefangen zwischen der alpinen direkten Demokratie und den vier Grundfreiheiten der EU, besonders jener des freien Personenverkehrs. Grossbritannien, das selber über Neuverhandlungen seiner Beziehung zur EU nachdenkt, täte gut daran, die Verhandlungen der Schweiz genau zu beobachten.

 

Die Populisten in der Schweiz und die Puristen in Brüssel mögen sich derzeit anfauchen, doch es wird eine wichtige Aufgabe für das künftige Führungspersonal Europas sein, mit der Schweiz eine Lösung zu finden. Auf unserem Kontinent ist die Schweiz das leuchtende Beispiel für ein Land, das der Tyrannei über Jahrhunderte widerstanden und seit 1945 eine hochstehende Volkswirtschaft und auf Wohlstand basierende multikulturelle Gesellschaft geschaffen hat. Ein zerrüttetes Verhältnis zwischen der Schweiz und der EU wäre eine Lose-lose-Politik schlimmster Art. Doch die Macht der Unterhändler und Diplomaten ist begrenzt. Die Schweiz muss deshalb in Europa eine Allianz mit Freunden bilden, bevor der Anti-EU-Populismus der SVP vom Anti-Schweiz-Populismus in Brüssel übertroffen wird.

 

The First Brexit

 

Cameron Plans to Leave Council of Europe As Dry Run for Brexit

David Cameron’s Conservative Party has said it will make proposals to introduce laws that will deny the right of the European Court of Human Rights to rule on human rights issues in Britain.

If Britain thus withdraws from the treaty setting up the European Court of European Right it will mean withdrawal from the Council of Europe – the first stage in a full-scale Brexit – Britain exiting European institutions to set out on new destiny  decoupled from Europe.

All EU member states are simultaneously members of the Council of Europe but the latter’s membership of 47 nation states extends to Switzerland, Russian, Armenia, Georgia and Iceland.

The Council of Europe was created after World War 2 on the initiative of Winston Churchill.  British lawyers drew up the European Convention on Human Rights protecting democracy, rule of law, religious faith, media freedom all seen as desirable goods in the anti-totalitarian politics of themed 20th century.

The Convention was given teeth in the form of a European Court of Human Rights whose rulings have to be accepted by all 47 signatories.

Belarus is the one European national suspended from membership over its flagrant authoritanism. The Council of Europe’s lively assembly of parliamentarians from 47 member states is also the scene of ding-dong battles over human rights abuses in Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The Council of Europe and the ECHR now seeks to uphold modern human rights to defend women, gays, ethnic minorities and is a lifeline for groups and individuals in countries where rule of law and constitutional democracy are novel concepts.

The proximate cause of British conservative anger is a small number of rulings about the treatment of alleged Islamist terrorists.  It is a variation of the Guantanamo Bay dilemma. The men are propagandists and organizers of evil. But often there is not a provable court case based on testable evidence against them.

In addition, they have may married while in Britain and have British wives or children so have some connection to the country.

Finally, most of the countries where they came from are high on the list of secret  police states where torture and disappearances are preferred tools of national security.

British judges have to pay attention to the European Convention of Human Rights which insists on open trials based on evidence, insists on the right to family life, and expressly forbids sending anyone to be tortured by modern-day Gestapos. And in some cases where detained alleged terrorists have appealed to the ECHR in Strasbourg the European Court has stopped deportations.

This has angered both British judges and lawmakers. They like the idea of the ECHR telling the Russians or Turks what to do but consider British justice and executive decisions so perfect they should not be limited by foreign judges sitting in faraway Strasbourg.

In essence the row is a variation of the now intense debate in Britain on whether British democracy and the right of British politicians to make law and British judges to uphold it is compatible with European treaties and inter-government bodies like the EU and ECHR which, can indeed, overrule national wishes.

Egged on by the off-shore owned press headed by Rupert Murdoch media empire a campaign has been running for some years against the ECHR. Now a group of Conservative Party lawyers had drawn up a plan to legislate the complete supremacy of British courts and judges which is incompatible with being a Treaty member of the ECHR and the Council of Europe.

The details will be unveiled at the Conservative Party congress in September and will then be in the party manifesto as David Cameron bids to win a second term next May.

If Cameron wins on that election promise then it is hard to see Britain staying as a Council of Europe member.

It will be the first Brexit move – Britain exiting the ECHR – ahead of the bigger one that is likely to happen in an EU membership referendum in 2017 which Cameron has also promised will be the lead item in his party’s manifesto.

Labour MPs have also got angry with the ECHR and voted with Conservatives to condemn and reject ECHR proposals on the idea that prisoners should have civic rights.

David Cameron has just ejected from his cabinet two senior Conservative lawyer ministers, a veteran pro-European, Ken Clarke, and a determined and principled Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who both threatened to resign if the Euroskeptic clamour for quitting the ECHR was turned into government policy.

Their ouster  means that Mr Cameron has now given way to the anti-Europeans in his party who hate the obligation to accept the ruling of a European institution based on a treaty obligation Britain has signed up to.

If Britain does quit the ECHR as Brexit No 1, then Brexit No 2 – quitting the EU will follow shortly after.

 

 

 

France’s New Prime Minister

Manuel Valls – Le Ferdinand Foch De Nos Jours?

Denis MacShane

In 1914, as he was leading his men at the Battle of the Marne General Foch, the best of all the French fighting generals told his chiefs in Paris : ‘My centre is giving way. My right is retreating. The situation is excellent. I am attacking.’

And indeed in one of the greatest manoeuvres ever seen on the European battlefield, Foch’s hastily reorganized armies stopped the overwhelming German advance on Paris and turned to dust Berlin’s hopes for a swift crushing capitulation of France such as was obtained in 1870 or later in1940.

100 years later another gritty stubborn French leader has decided that his country needs the shock of telling some harsh truths if France is again to rise to the challenge of staunching the defeatism about inevitable decline that pervades most French public debate.

In a remarkable speech, using language never heard before from a socialist in France, the prime minister, Manuel Valls gave a simple message to his fellow citizens and to the governing elites of Paris : ‘Reform or die.’ To be sure these are only words but in France la parole counts and Valls has now burnt all his bridges back to the safety blanket of traditional French statism.

French socialists like to think their ideology of government is located in a mushy Marxism. It isn’t. It is statism pure and simple. General de Gaulle nationalized more banks and industries in 1945 than the Labour government did in Britain. De Gaulle did not do so to implement leftist theory. It was l’état, l’état and always more state that lay at the heart of his profoundly conservative ideology. The first socialist President of France, Francois Mitterrand, donned the statist mantle of General de Gaulle and pretended it was French socialism.

Now a new generation French leader has dared to say that the statist Gaullist-Mitterrand tradition won’t work in the 21st century.

Now a new generation French leader has dared to say that the statist Gaullist-Mitterrand tradition won’t work in the 21st century. Worse, unless French citizens accept they need to change no amount of statism will save France. Choosing an obscure south west French assembly of socialists, Prime Minister Valls told them that permanent reformism was now the only way forward for France.

‘The left can die’ he had already said as he urged his deputies in the National Assembly to accept painful reforms. Suggesting a more Nordic or German approach he denounced a France ‘trapped in partisan politics’ in contrast to the historic compromises that have allowed northern European social democrats to mix economic growth with social justice measures.

He told his leftist critics in his own party that reforms ‘can throw people off balance, upset old habits, and get rid of what has been taken for granted.’ The left he said has to ‘throw away the recipe book from the past and re-invent itself. Our political culture likes the idea of the all-or-nothing “revolution”. But we need reforms, real reforms based on dialogue,’ Valls declared. He told the left to back business ‘Supporting entrepeneurs (yes there is a French word for them), supporting production is part of what being left means.’

Valls like Foch is taking a risk as too many of the current French metrics look bad. At times France get a unjustified bad press. Right now Britain is the EU’s economic poster boy yet Britain runs a government deficit of 5.8 per cent, twice as high as the Eurozone’s official target of 3 per cent and much higher than France’s 4.3 per cent.

Valls is linking up with Mario Renzi to say that the Berlin imposed austerity ideology does not make sense. Germany’s top 500 companies report falling order books as the rest of Europe cannot buy what Germans make. West of the Rhine and south of the Alps the Germans, via faithfull messenger boys in Brussels, reduce public and private spending, borrowing and investment.

Britain’s Tory government is about the Keynsian show in Europe. Since Prime Minister Cameron came to power in 2010 government debt increased from 78.4 per cent of GDP to 90.6 per cent of GDP. The Bank of England prints money unleashing a giant housing bubble but London reckons – rightly – it is better to have economic movement and energy than Berlin’s orthodox stasis.

Valls like Italy’s new political star, Matteo Renzi, another reformist social democrat, is cutting taxes on the low paid and holding down public spending to allow private businesses especially in the digital econmy where France is an EU leader to grow.

It is all in stark contrast to the last president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy. Although he claimed to be an ambassador of transatlantic neo-liberal ideas during his five years in office public spending increased by 15 per cent and government debt went from 64 to 85 per cent of GDP. Sarkozy binned sensible reforms proposed by Jacques Attali and other French modernisers. He instituted 20 new taxes and increased the level of public employees. As Gaspard Koenig of the Paris think-tank Génération Libre noted recently in the Financial Times, ‘by the end Sarkozy was calling for the reintroduction of French protectionism and national border controls.’ Sarkozy thus was a failed statist in the tradition of de Gaulle and Mitterrand but without their flair or vision on global issues or European construction.

There is no guarantee that Valls can win. He faces Marine Le Pen and arguably the most stupid left in Europe since the old French communist party, so reactionary it used to embarrass even the Kremlin, faded away. And like Ferdinand Foch he can only offer a long slogging war as reformism never delivers instant results.

There are many French would-be reformists who are not frightened to call themselves social democrats or even liberal socialists. Bu they have never had one of their own at the heart, indeed the top of French power. Valls has nailed his colours to the idea of reformism. If he goes down, so does France.

New EU Commissioner Must Swear Oath – to EU

 

Don’t Expect Miracles from Commissioner Hill

 

In 2004 Peter Mandelson nagged and nagged me as Europe Minister about when Tony Blair would name him as EU Commissioner and bring to an end his tedium of finger twiddling on the back benches.

I warned Peter not to get over-excited about the job. ‘You won’t have much power. You’ll have to navigate through two dozen national trade priorities from statist protectionism in France to fanatical free traders in Sweden. You will spend your time tired travelling from city to city, staying in boring hotels, making technical speeches to boring people without any decent gossip to exchange.’

And as soon as he could Lord Mandelson came back to London politics. Despite immense political skills he achieved nothing as EU Trade Commissioner just as today’s trade commissioner, an obscure Belgian, is not making any real progress on the much vaunted US-EU transatlantic trade deal, TTIP.  It is not hisfault but the US Congress is not going to give up trade barriers and preference for US firms any more than we will let US global behemoths buy up the NHS or the BBC.

So the idea that Britain’s new EU Commissioner, Jonathan Hill, is a kind of Harry Potter who will do battle with the Lord Voldemorts of the EU is far-fetched. It is a perfectly sensible appointment as Lord Hill has wielded the oil can in the engine room of British politics and everyone in the Lords says he is a go-along, get-along kind of chap who finds solutions rather than sharpens confrontations.

There are half a dozen top EU Commission jobs that he can aspire to and even with all the bad blood, now drying but still visible, between David Cameron and Jean-Claude Juncker as long as Britain is in the EU it has the right like France or Germany to ask and obtain a major post.

But an EU Commissioner is not a national ambassador for a Eurosceptic agenda back home. Lord Hill will have to swear an oath to uphold EU treaties and ‘not to take instructions from any Government.’  So the idea that Lord Hill can take order from David Cameron to rush out as a champion of EU reform are naïve, even if desirable.

He will be in his silo surrounded by a multi-lingual, multi-national cabinet of staffers with endless papers to see and sign off. Commissioners barely see or even know each other, especially if new boys and girls.

The reformed Europe that many want will require political networking and alliance building  as well as trades and  deals in  a manner that has not been Britain’s forte since Tony Blair left office.

As Lord Hill settles into his new job – whatever it is – in November just as the moules-frites season opens in Brussels he will have plenty of work and given his qualities will do it well. But the idea he can be the spearhead of solving the Conservative Party’s difficulties with Europe and be the man who avoids Brexit is a fantasy.

 

Denis MacShane is the former Minister of Europe.

Cameron’s Reshuffle Makes Brexit More Likely

UK’s New Government Makes Brexit More Likely as Cameron Names Party Functionary as EU Commissioner

Denis MacShane

The UK’s new EU Commissioner, Jonathan Hill, is a Conservative Party fonctionnaire of long-standing. He worked for the Conservative Party in the early 1980s after getting a good degree in history at Cambridge. He speaks some French but says he prefers living in England. Three weeks ago he denied categorically that he was a candidate to be European Commissioner (http://bit.ly/1pQTrNy)
He was the special adviser to the ultra pro-European Tory politician and minister, Ken Clarke, during the Thatcher government and then went to work for John Major in 10 Downing Street. He described the difficulties Major had with his party over Europe as like ‘being in a medieval torture chamber.’
His background at the Conservative Party Research Department where he worked with David Cameron and with Cameron’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, as well as working with Cameron and Llewellyn for the Party in the 1990s meant he had friends in high places.
Hill is a likeable go-along, get-along political bureaucrat who has never sought elected office. He spent his time in public relations working for Tory-linked public affairs consultancies after 1997. His friend, David Cameron, named him to the House of Lords in 2010, as a junior minister in the education department. Peers were surprised when Cameron promoted him to be Leader of the House of Lords, thus a member of the UK cabinet.
A senior peer said : ‘Jonathan Hill is very polite and friendly and goes out of his way to get on with everyone. Otherwise he is a bit of a nonentity with no sense of being a political executive who can get things done or take big decisions.’
It is hard to establish his exact ideological position and he has no strong known views on Europe. He comes from the same background of elite, private-school educated Conservatives as David Cameron and Ed Llewellyn. These are not hardline ideologues but want to keep the Conservative Party in power adapting to the times and national mood as necessary.
Unlike a Peter Mandelson or in earlier times Mrs Thatcher’s bull-dozing single market Commissioner, Lord Cockfield, there is little expectation in London that Lord Hill will have much impact in Brussels or achieve anything in whatever Commission post Juncker allocates to him.
The Prime Minister has removed nearly all the identifiable pro-Europeans out of his cabinet. His new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has openly said he can contemplate Britain leaving the EU.
Another European but non-EU issue is the Conservative and press hatred for the European Court of Human Rights. Cameron has sacked a senior lawyer politician, Dominic Grieve, from the post of Attorney General. Grieve had always made clear he would resign if Britain sought to leave the ECHR and Council of Europe. Now Grieve has gone the demand that ‘foreign judges’ (that is from the ECHR) should stop dictating to Britain can now be made more stridently by Conservative anti-Europeans.
All the women Cameron has promoted to ministerial rank are known Eurosceptics. In fact, it is impossible to identify a conservative minister left in the British government who has said anything friendly about the EU since entering political life.
The new Cameron government can be fairly described as a Brexit government and if Mr Cameron remains as prime minister after May 2015 with his referendum pledge the chances of Brexit have just risen higher.

The French Intifada – Essasy in Prospect


The French intifada: France and its Muslims
by Denis MacShane
/ JUNE 27, 2014 / 4 COMMENTS

After Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, Andrew Hussey’s The French Intifada—on France, its Muslim population and the challenge of Islamism—is the most interesting book about France to have been published in English for many years. Hussey runs the University of London institute in Paris. He is serious about France and the French. Like French political sociologists such as Alain Touraine, Michel Wieviorka or Gilles Kepel, he believes in getting out of his study and into the rough streets of the French banlieues.
Hussey writes down what he sees, hears and is told. For example, he is not afraid to report the extraordinary levels of anti-semitism among France’s disaffected Arab and Muslim population. Most bien-pensant English writers gloss over the vitriolic Jew-hatred that informs Islamist ideology. Dislike of Netanyahu and Israel’s settlement policies blinds many to the extent to which anti-semitism has become entrenched as a core element of 21st-century ideology in much of the Arab and wider Muslim world.
The French Intifada is an unusual mixture of reportage and history. Its first three chapters on disaffected communities of North African origin in France are vivid journalism far removed from the sex scandals and boring Peter Mayle retreads that is the staple diet of most British writers and journalists operating out of France. In fact, our main papers have some high quality correspondents but their task is to please their monolingual editors in London. Then there’s the tried and trusted “the French don’t have a word for entrepreneur” kind of story beloved of British and American correspondents which, for the past 25 years, has presented France as an economic basket-case that compares unfavourably with the self-proclaimed (though not always evident) success of Anglo-American neoliberalism.
As in Britain, there is a great deal of discussion and writing about France’s Muslim communities. But unlike Britain, where British Muslims tend to have travelled thousands of miles to arrive from Pakistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh and India, France’s Muslims are more akin to the Irish, who came to Britain across a short stretch of sea. Unlike many of Britain’s Muslims, especially those in poorer communities, who watch Pakistani TV at home and speak Mirpuri as a first and sometimes only language, the southern Mediterranean Muslims in France have imbibed French culture and language through watching French television or reading newspapers and books in French as often as Arabic.
In the summer, at the border crossings into Spain you’ll see cars packed with men, women and children going to North Africa for a holiday. On the car roofs, fridges or washing machines are roped down to be handed over to families back home in Morocco or Tunisia. Members of the Paris political and business elite such as Dominque Strauss Kahn have holiday homes in Marrakech or along the Tunisian coastline, with its stunning Roman amphitheatres. Many of the stars of French journalism or politics—men like Jean Daniel, Jacques Attali and Dominique de Villepin—have family roots in North Africa. Daniel, still writing elegantly and with passion in his nineties in the Nouvel Observateur, can find some consideration for the Algerian leader, President Bouteflika, who, though barely alive, was re-elected recently for a fourth term. Daniel wrote recently: “I love this country (Algeria) where I was born.”
There are 5m Muslims in France compared to 2.5m in Britain and 3m (mainly Turks) in Germany. Hussey provides a readable history of France’s invasion, colonisation and exploitation of Algeria, Tunisa and Morocco. Compared with the longer, slower process of British colonisation and the subsequent winding down of the empire after 1945, France’s relationship with its three North African colonies was more intense, brutal and closer to home.
Over Easter, I listened to an erudite discussion on France Culture, the French radio channel which has no equivalent in Britain, about Marshal Hubert Lyautey, French Governor General of Morocco for the first quarter of the 20th century. The participants in the discussion praised Lyautey as a brave soldier who loved Moorish culture and sought to rule through the Bey (later King) and generally respected Moroccan traditions. Hussey points out that this highly regarded French statesman-soldier was a prolific sodomite and paedophile who buggered everyone from his military aides-de-camp to passing Arab urchins.
Colonial France was at war almost permanently with the Arabs who lived across the Mediterannean. Marshal Pétain led an invading army and airforce to “pacify” Algeria in the 1920s. The 1954-1962 war in Algeria was far more brutal than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Some 1.5m Algerians were killed, many after the most brutal torture; France suffered 90,000 killed and wounded.
In the 1990s, Algeria, which won its independence in 1962, lost 200,000 after an Islamist uprising against the army which, rather like the Egyptian military more recently, refused to accept a democratically elected Islamist party (the FIS) which sought to impose ultra right-wing religious conservatism on a populace which had tasted certain aspects of European secularism.
The brutality of Islamists who butchered women in Morocoo for not wearing hijabs in 2003 or those who told the mother of the Islamist-influenced killer Mohammed Merah that she should weep tears of pride and joy at her son’s murder of Jewish school teachers and children in Toulouse in 2012, have had a great impact in France. Merah was a French citizen of Algerian background who had converted to Islamism while serving a prison sentence for robbery. He had gone on the grand tour of Islamist jihad, visiting Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria before returning to south-west France. Before the killing in Toulouse, he had shot dead two Muslim soldiers serving in the French army. This recalled the mass killings of the “Harkis,” the Algerian soldiers in the French army who were seen as traitors and collaborators after independence. The government refused to allow them to enter France, whereupon the Algerian nationalists massacred them, butchered their families and expelled survivors to the desert wilderness of southern Algeria.
In targeting both Jews and Muslims in French army uniform, Merah was aiming at two objects of Islamist hate. As with the Islamist killers of the off-duty British soldier, Lee Rigby, in Woolwich in 2013, there is a reluctance to accept that Europe, and especially France, is living with a powerful new ideological force in its midst, one that has a theory about how the world should be organised and a willingness to commit acts of political violence to achieve its ends.
It is easier to relapse into the language of lone killers, deranged individuals, brainwashed drifters rather than accept we are dealing with a coherent ideology. No one is comfortable at anything that hints at “Islamaphobia.” This is a curious formulation. Christophobia is deeply fashionable, as the commercial success of books by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens attacking and ridiculing the Christian faith suggests. But in a clever sleight-of-hand, it is deemed that to criticise Islam or the Koran or the words of the Prophet Mohammed is to commit a racist assault rather than to engage in a Voltairean questioning of faith.
Similarly, state authorities bend over backwards to avoid discussing Islamist ideology. When sentencing the murderers of Lee Rigby, the judge, Sir Nigel Sweeney, told the two killers: “You each converted to Islam some years ago. Thereafter you were radicalised and each became an extremist—espousing a cause and views which, as has been said elsewhere, are a betrayal of Islam and of the peaceful Muslim communities which give so much to our country.” These are the clichés of an officialdom which sees Islamist ideological violence as a kind of deranged betrayal of a religion. Judge Sweeney went on to say that the killers “decided to advance [their] extremist cause” without ever telling the court and public what that extremist cause was. And he concluded that the men wanted to be shot dead by the police as they were “expecting to become martyrs and each gain a place in paradise.”
It is doubtful that a member of the more intellectually sophisticated French judiciary would use such banalities—gaining “a place in paradise” indeed!—to describe a violent act in conformity with a new global ideology which, after the demise of fascism and communism, now has a grip on millions, including many fellow-travellers in Europe. Hussey examines the deep historical roots of the hatred that animates Islamists in France and which deeply worries the French authorities, who have seen hundreds of young French citizens going to practice Islamist jihad in Syria. The French prefer to deal with the problem by counter-espionage, cyber-surveillance, and infiltration techniques unlike the British, who try to persuade faith leaders to lecture their flock on the criminality of violence.
Hussey’s book make a persuasive link between the violence of France’s war on her Arab neighbours from Napoleon’s foray into Egypt, through the long and brutal treatment of southern Mediterranean Arabs, until de Gaulle’s capitulation to Algerian nationalists in 1962. In the half century since, Hussey argues, the war has continued in the form of the humiliation and subordination of Arab Muslims living in France, either as full French citizens or as immigrants retaining citizenship of their home nations in the Maghreb.
Part of this argument is challenged by a new book by Gilles Kepel, the best European scholar on Islamist ideology and its impact on Arab countries as well as Europe. In his book Passion française: Les voix des cités, Kepel examines 400 candidates from France’s Muslim communities who stood for the National Assembly in the French parliamentary election of 2012. Only a handful got elected but, Kepel argues, their participation in electoral politics on behalf of different parties means that French Muslims, like their British equivalents, are now leaving the mosque to take part in mainstream political activity. This may indeed be happening, but, paradoxically, Muslims in France who used to identify with the Socialists on anti-racist grounds are now tempted to support rightist political formations which oppose gay marriage. French Muslims today are more at ease with political Catholicism than secular socialism.
Kepel worries that political Islam in France has become detached from the broad anti-racist coalition and is now making specific Muslim demands—for halal food, headscarves for women and acceptance of the quenelle, the half-Nazi salute regularly used by the anti-semitic “comedian” Dieudonné and made notorious in Britain by the footballer Nicolas Anelka. Politicised Muslims are being courted by ideologues like Alain Soral, who calls himself a “national-socialiste” and argues that mass unemployment in the banlieues is caused by globalisation, the existence of the European Union and the power of Zionism. The objective is to persuade French Muslim citizens that part of what attracts some of them to Islamism can be catered for in a new politics of national identity opposed to the EU and cosmopolitan global capitalism.
Kepel gives a qualified welcome to these developments, seeing them as preferable to pure communitarisme,Muslim or Islamist identity politics. Having to choose between Islamism and warmed up 21st-century national socialism seems like the old choice between cholera and the plague, but Kepel should be read alongside Hussey, whose book asserts that there is an unresolved tension between French Muslims and France. Calling this a “war” or “intifada” may be an exaggeration designed to achieve an effect, but many serious people in France are worried that a French 9/11 is possible and worry about the backlash against French Muslims if Islamism continues to attract devotees.
If I were teaching contemporary France to students anywhere in the English-speaking world, Hussey’s book would be top of my reading list.
The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and its Arabs
By Andrew Hussey (Granta Books, £25)