EU Does Not Control National Legislation

Letter in Financial Times  29 November 2014

It is a myth that UK laws emanate from Europe

Sir, Bill Emmott is right to dismiss the absurd claim from Nigel Farage that 75 per cent of all UK laws are made in Europe but wrong to suggest the real figure is “20-30 per cent” (“Cheshire cat smiles mask danger in UK politics”, November 22). According to the most recent study by the House of Commons Library, from “1997 to 2009 6.8 per cent of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1 per cent of secondary legislation” emanated from Europe.

 

If one thinks of all the high-profile laws passed by this parliament – student fees, gay marriage, bedroom tax or HS2 – the idea all our laws are made other than by our MPs seems silly. Given that the total EU income is 1 per cent of EU gross domestic product and about 85 per cent of that is returned to member states for distribution as agricultural or regional infrastructure subsidies, the notion that the EU institutions spending about one-sixth of Europe’s total income constitute a Moloch trampling on national lawmaking and identity is even sillier.

 

It is true that to allow made-in-Britain goods, food, capital and citizens to move freely without let and hindrance across 27 frontiers, and be available to half a billion fellow Europeans, requires lots of harmonised standards and these have to have the force of law to reassure consumers.

But the laws on taxation, crime, education, healthcare and identity issues such as banning burkas or the role of religion in the state are made nationally, as is the supreme decision of going to war.

It is true that Mr Farage is repeating windy claims by EU grandees such as Jacques Delors or more recently Viviane Reding that the majority of law is made in Europe. Mr Farage shows himself to be a true MEP in repeating such euro myths. But myths they are.

Denis Macshane

London SW1, UK

 

 

 

UK gets tough with pick-up artist but not Putin thugs

Denis MacShane Become a fan
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Cameron Gets Tough With a Pick-Up Artist, But Not Putin’s Put-to-Death Artists
Posted: 27/11/2014 16:39 GMT Updated: 27/11/2014 16:59 GMT
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In a show of strength and leadership British Ministers have taken tough action against someone who is clearly a major threat to British national interests. The government has imposed a ban on entering into Britain of an American called Julien Blanc. But as he gets tough with a fellow citizen of President Obama, David Cameron remains resolutely aligned with President Putin’s view that his fellow citizens should not face similar sanctions to that imposed on Julien Blanc.

Blanc is an absurd sexist self-publicist who describes himself as a ‘pick-up artist.’ Britain is probably better off without his presence but in the same week, MPs of all parties gathered to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the killing of a British employed tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. He died in agony on a Moscow prison floor five years after 12 months of being brutally treated by state officials working for President Putin.

The MPs are still waiting for David Cameron to take any action against those named as linked to his death.

Magnitsky was employed by a British firm, Hermitage Capital, to investigate the disappearance of $230 million which Hermitage paid in tax to the Russian equivalent of HMRC. He found the money had been diverted into the accounts of Putin’s tax police who are at the heart of corrupt business-political nexus that enriches politicians and favoured state functionaries.

The young father of two persisted in his demands that the money be accounted for. He was arrested, thrown into prison, and tortured to try and persuade him to drop the case. He refused and was then he was so badly treated he died.

Magnitsky’s employer, Bill Browder, an American born British citizen was so outraged he used his firm’s considerable resources to track down those responsible for his employee’s death and find out where they had bank accounts or assets overseas.

He persuaded the US Congress to pass the “Justice for Magnitsky Act’ which named 40 Russians and banned them from entering America or owning property or shares there. President Obama signed the Act into law. In 2011, the House of Commons after a day-long debate adopted a similar resolution calling on William Hague and Teresa May to ban those linked to the Magnitsky killing from entering the UK or holding assets via the City here.

Unlike President Obama, David Cameron has refused to act on the Commons resolution and implement the travel ban. So while the British government can get really tough with a pick-up artist from America it is as weak as a mouse when it comes to those named in connection with brutal death of a Russian working for a London-based firm.

There has never been any explanation for this pusillanimity. Nor is there any evidence that the departure of William Hague from the Foreign Office will make any difference. The Tory MP who has led the campaign to get UK justice for Magnitsky is the former FCO lawyer, Dominic Raab. His father was a Jewish immigrant from East Europe before the war and Raab has led high profile campaigns on issues like the European Arrest Warrant. He still privately expresses hope that those linked to the Magnitsky death might be banned from entering the UK like Julian Blanc. But Ministers seem adamant they do not want to embarrass Putin who said when he was elected as President of Russia in 2012 a top priority was to protect Russian officials from international sanctions and pressure.

Nevertheless Britain has agreed to EU visa bans and asset freezes on a small number of Russians and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine as part of the campaign to try and get Putin to row back from promoting armed conflicts in east Ukraine. But Britain is a nervous Nellie when it comes to joining with the US and imposing Magnitsky linked travel bans and asset freezes.

This is part of the steady appeasement of Putin that has been a hallmark of Cameron’s Ostpoliitk since 2010. In 2008, as leader of the opposition Cameron flew to Georgia to protest Putin’s invasion by land, sea and air of the small country. Russian has turned the Georgian region of Abkhazia into a military zone with missile and other Russian army bases now permanently installed there.

But on becoming prime minister in 2010 Cameron developed no strategy for dealing with Russia. Poland offered Britain the free use of land and army barracks for British troops leaving Germany as the British military presence in Germany since 1945 was wound down. William Hague and Liam Fox turned down flat Warsaw’s offer. Together with Tory attacks on hard working Polish citizens helping to grow the UK economy the seven-decade long friendship between Poland and Britain (1940-2010) is now cool to the point of being frozen.

Angela Merkel is looking for new ways of making clear to Putin that his militaristic approach to European problems needs to change. Berlin expressed concern about the massive joint Russian-Serbian military exercises held this month in Serbia. Putin was received in Belgrade with a grandiose military parade in best pre-war style. Moscow would like to open a permanent military presence in Belgrade but Berlin had made clear that if Belgrade goes down that road, Serbia’s hopes of an EU future are over.

Each time Mrs Merkel meets Putin for their talks in German or Russian, he promises here he will back a cease-fire in Ukraine and each time he breaks his word. Berlin is also worried about Moldova and Putin’s support for military operations in Transnistria. In Poland and the Baltic States there is real alarm at the non-stop Russian military pressure including military over-flights, cyber-attacks and calibrated destabilisation in Ukraine.

In London, none of these issues seem to matter. Russian money is now essential for the City. Russians make massive donations to Conservative Party funds. And while David Cameron’s ministers can get tough with a pick-up artist from America they will not move against put-to-death artists from Russia if they are backed by Putin.

Cameron Speech on EU Workers

Cameron To Europe: Don’t Come Here Unless You Have a Job, Leave Your Wife at Home and Expect Workers From Asia or Africa to Get Better Treatment
Denis MacShane

Irish, Italian, French and Finnish citizens will be expected to show they have a job in Britain before travelling to the country under plans announced by Prime Minister David Cameron today.
And a German or Spaniard must prove his wife or her husband can speak English before they are allowed to join their spouses working in the UK to create a family life.
These are two of the remarkable proposals put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron today in the most direct attack on the right of all EU citizens to travel freely and work on the same basis as national citizens across the 28 labour markets of the European Union.
And if the other 27 governments in the EU do not concede his demands, Mr Cameron said ‘I rule nothing out’ about Britain staying an EU member in his proposed In-Out referendum. While other senior cabinet ministers have hinted they would be happy to see the UK quit Europe, this is the first time the prime minister speaking en clair has said it was an option he would back if he cannot get his way.
Although Mr Cameron has said he was against quotas or caps on EU citizens working in Britain his speech was riddled with name-calling Irish, Polish, Spanish or Dutch citizens as “immigrants” and describing them as spongers on Britain’s welfare system.
In fact, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Spain, the Netherland and several other EU member states have more EU citizens living inside their borders than Britain but in his speech Mr Cameron presented Britain as an exceptional case that had far too many fellow European working and living here.
Seeking to respond to the increasing hostility of his own party to EU citizens working in Britain as well as trying to claw back voters from the separatist populist nationalist UKIP party which trounced the Tories at recent elections, Mr Cameron put forward a dramatic set of proposals which strike at the very heart of the EU’s concept of non-discrimination between its citizens.
In fact, EU citizens working in London and other cities where the booming labour intensive economy based on low pay has sucked in so many workers, would be treated more harshly than workers who arrive from Pakistan, India or Bangladesh to join the 2.5 million Muslim community in Britain.
And in a curious message to the two million plus British living and working in other EU countries Mr Cameron said he accepted that if his plans are put into practice they would face reciprocal discrimination.
In his long awaited speech Mr Cameron discarded the straw-man of imposing numerical quotas on EU citizens which Angela Merkel, Manuel Valls, and Matteo Renzi as well as other national government leaders said would never be conceded.
Instead he is proposing to discriminate against EU citizens by demanding unique British opt-outs from existing Treaty rules. In the most dramatic demand Mr Cameron put forward he said EU citizens should “have a job offer before they come here” if they wanted to work. Administering this is going to be hard. Will Eurostar officials at the Gare du Nord in Paris or Easyjet employees in Madrid have to ensure all their passengers have a job waiting for them in Britain before being allowed to board a train or plane?
At the moment low paid work in Britain is subsidized by the means of tax credits which allows employers to pay low wages in the knowledge that workers get a supplement to their pay which otherwise would not be sufficient to allow even a moderate standard of life. It is a form of negative income tax and has allowed hundreds of thousands of businesses to hire people at very low pay. Low pay workers with children also get a tax top-up to support family life.
Now Mr Cameron is proposing to deny these benefits to Irish or Spanish and other EU citizens for four years. The Prime Minister appears to be targeting only European citizens not people coming from non-EU countries.
With the best will in the world it is hard to see this as other than discriminatory and as such open to challenge in the European Court of Justice.
Poland’s Donald Tusk takes over as president of the European Council on Monday. Does Mr Cameron expect Tusk, as his first task as political head of the EU, to tell his fellow Poles they will have to accept different treatment if they work in Britain from British and non-EU citizens?
Mr Cameron’s calls for English language tests for ‘ EU migrants. Their partners can just come straight into our country without any proper controls at all.’
This implies the spectacle of a Portuguese or Greek citizen having to prove his or her wife, husband or partner can pass an English test before being allowed to form a family unit in Britain.
Mr Cameron also says EU citizens but not immigrants from Asia will face “a new residency requirement for social housing – meaning that you can’t even be considered for a council house unless you have been here for at least four years.”
This is largely meaningless as very little social housing has been built in Britain this century. Most EU citizens in Britain live in accommodation rented from private landlords. But, again, this smacks of discrimination which is likely to fail the ECJ test. The biggest consumers of social housing in recent years have been poor immigrants from Commonwealth Asian countries coming to Britain to marry cousins already living in the country.
EU leaders will sensibly not seek to over-react to Mr Cameron’s dramatic demands as none want Britain to leave the EU. But Mr Cameron’s proposals are unlikely to satisfy UKIP voters and Tory activists who complain about the numbers coming into the UK, not whether they receive tax credits or can bring in partners who do not speak English.
Employers who have consistently refused to train British workers or pay them decent wages so that tax top-up pay credits are not needed are unlikely to change their hiring practices.
Mr Cameron may have won himself the worst of both worlds. He has put forward a set of demands which clearly imply discrimination against EU citizens and that will be hard for the other 27 member states, the EU Commission and Parliament to accept. But he is not meeting the demands of his party Eurosceptics, UKIP voters who drain the Tories of their electoral base as well as the anti-EU press all of whom want a straight forward reduction in the numbers of EU citizens allowed in Britain.
Far from this speech closing down Britain’s internal EU debate it just opens a new chapter. And the clear suggestion that if he does get what he demands Mr Cameron will campaign for Brexit is the kind of bluster and blackmail that other European leaders may find to tolerate even if they will say little until the British election next May. If Mr Cameron is re-elected and holds his IN-Out referendum the odds on Brexit have just got shorter.

Denis MacShane is Britain’s former minister of Europe. His book “Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe” will be published by IB Tauris early in the New Year.

Welcome Back Andy

Guardian. Comment is Free 21 November 2014

 

Welcome back, Andy Coulson. Let me tell you about life after prison

Denis MacShane

So glad you are out. I bet every hour inside seemed a day. Now you can join the long list of the famous ex-prisoner Brits including Mick JaggerBertrand Russell,Jeffrey ArcherJonathan AitkenStephen Fry and Gerald Ronson.

It’s much better outside than in, though. I was back in Brixton recently and keep in touch with Old Belmarshians. I found there was rather more truth and self-awareness in prison than in the tea-room of the House of Commons, and I bet you found prisoners and prison officers nicer than some of your former journalist friends, especially those writing all the moralising editorials about you before returning to the fraud of writing their expenses claims.

Someone once said that your sentence only really begins in England when you leave prison. Like me, you will have been given £46 – the money all discharged prisoners receive and unchanged since 1996 – and that’s it. You and I had a house and savings to return to, but many non-violent crime prisoners leave to find their home and family have disintegrated under the pressure of months of waiting for the trial, and then today’s ideology of mass incarceration.

How are you enjoying the tag? I liked the ceremony of fitting the neat little plastic bracelet around my ankle and finding a place in my house for the monitor. My tag time was 7pm-7am. Like Cinderella, I always worried about getting home in time.

Of course you and I and most of those convicted of non-violent offences could have been tagged from day one, but our judges, politicians, the Crown Prosecution Service and, ahem, our tabloid editors have an almost religious belief that throwing as many people into prison as possible is good for Britain.

Your former boss, David Cameron, has twice as many prisoners on his watch as Margaret Thatcher. The atavistic calls to throw more people into prison and deny any return to their former jobs grow in tempo and ugliness.

My tag was a minor bore. So many asked about mine I was tempted to charge £5 a look and £10 to touch. I just organised loads of tag dinners at home and MPs, ambassadors, editors, judges, writers, other friends and family came round with wine and good cheer. They knew the truth and were pleased for the first time in their lives to have someone to report first-hand on Belmarsh and Brixton. Like me, you are doing your tag time in winter, so staying at home 7pm-7am for a few weeks won’t be too much of a chore.

The hardest part for me – and I suspect you – will be the psychological adjustment. Everyone in the political-media world knows that far from you being the only editor or journalist who took part in hacking and invasion of privacy, there are loads who did and nothing happened to them, just as I can name MPs and ministers today who fiddled the expenses system for personal profit – something no one accused me of – and who escaped without a mark on their character.

So you will ask yourself, as I did: “Why me?” All I can say is that life happens. If I hear another senior judge friend tell me that what they and the CPS do has nothing to do with justice or truth but is about social order, I will yawn, but the plain fact is that this weird thing called society or public opinion needed some to be punished after the double scandal of MPs’ expenses and phone hacking. Unlike Admiral Byng we are both now free and on to new lives. I hope David Cameron has the decency to invite you around for coffee or lunch as Tony Blair and David Blunkett did once I was out.

You worked hard and loyally for the prime minister. You made a mistake. Some editors shop their sources to the state and avoid sanction. Others eavesdrop on sources and go to prison. You were part of a culture that reached across journalism. Many MPs have made a point of extending a hug to me with the whisper “There but for the grace of God …”. I hope your journo friends do the same. But they won’t. You and I have to live with the cliches of being “disgraced”, “shamed”, and “convicted” as our fellow NUJ members get such pleasure from dumping on ex-cons.

You will face difficulties over bank accounts. I first opened a bank account with Lloyds as a schoolboy, but the bank closed down my account while I was inside. Insurance companies refuse to take money from a released prisoner, though a very good charity, Unlock, can advise. Up to three-quarters of all released prisoners are back inside within a year as our overcrowded prisons can offer little or no training nor rehabilitation and the financial despair and lack of a job or a home drives released prisoners back to crime.

I hope you can join me in supporting demands for prison reform. Unlike MPs, civil servants, or columnists, we know from the inside just how rotten and useless Whitehall prison policy is.

The not very smart minister Chris Grayling was forking out £1,000 a week to keep you, me and thousands of other non-violent, one-mistake men in prison who in more intelligent countries would be punished at their own expense not that of the taxpayer. Half of all female prisoners attempt suicide and the thousands of women in prison because of poverty, debt or having a criminal boyfriend is a disgrace.

Some crazy things have happened to me in a rollercoaster life, and now I wouldn’t have missed Belmarsh for anything in the world. I learned loads, not least about myself. Good luck and show ’em the stuff British hacks are made of.

Best wishes

Denis MacShane

 

Slow Disappearance of Social Democracy in SE Europe

The Globalist 18 November 2014

Romania: The German Factor and a Pattern

By Denis MacShane, November 18, 2014

In a big surprise to almost everybody, in Romania’s just concluded run-off elections for the post of president, the strong favorite, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, received a beating at the polls.

Instead, Klaus Johannis, a Romanian of German origin, won the presidential election. It is rare for any — certainly any East European — country to vote a member of the nation’s ethnic minorities to top political offices, never mind the presidency.

There were three reasons for Victor Ponta’s defeat.

First, Romanian voters did not want to give all power to a single party. Former leaders and government ministers of the Social Democrats, the party of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, had to contend with serious charges of corruption. Prison sentences have been handed down and there was the fear that pardons might emerge if just one party controlled the presidency and the premiership.

The same is true of Ponta’s rightist opponents. As with Bulgaria, the European Union is deeply unhappy about the political-business nexus, with politicians emerging much richer than their nominal salaries.

With a conservative now in Cotroceni Palace, the president’s residence, Romania now has more of a true balance of power between the president (Johannis) and the prime minister (who is likely to remain Ponta).

The German element

Second, Klaus Johannis received strong backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her CDU party. With that as backdrop, Klaus Johannis, even though he came across as a stern, correct German, still succeeded. Voters believe that he will not abuse his office, in contrast to what previous Romanian top office-holders have done.

There now is a Berlin-Bucharest relationship. This transcends the aspect of political solidarity between political parties. Romanian voters evidently put some trust into this new connection – likely in the hope that it will yield some benefits by making Romania a more integrated, better disciplined and hence also better performing part of the EU family.

Diasporas matter

Third, the margin of victory in both cases was interestingly provided by Romanian voters residing elsewhere in Europe. This was also the case with the 2009 presidential election, when the rightist, Traian Bsescu, won by just 70,000 votes out of 10.5 million cast.

One million Romanians live in Italy, 850,000 in Spain and probably up to 200,000 in the UK. Since Romania joined the European Union in 2007, more than 3 million out of a total population of 20 million have left to work or live in richer EU states.

The strong turnout among them shows that they stay engaged in their birth country’s political affairs and critical choices for the future.

The Romanian election signals the continuation of another important development. In neighboring Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Socialists Party was ousted from power last month.

Like Victor Ponta, they had a western-trained young leader, Sergei Stanishev, who had been prime minister and currently heads the Party of European Socialists – the federation of all center-left parties in Europe.

Sayonara to European social democracy?

But in the October parliamentary elections, the socialists were decisively beaten in an election and also charged with accusations of money making and political favors to pro-Russian businesses at the expense of European and American investors.

The message in these twin defeats is simple: The center left has a greatly diminished political presence in east and southeast Europe 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell.

If one adds the virtual elimination of PASOK in Greece, the decline of PSOE in Spain, the increasing marginalization of the SPD in Germany, the difficulties of the PS in France and the failure of SAP in Sweden to get more than 31%, even though it ended up in power after the September 2014 elections, there really is a generalized crisis of classic post-1945 democratic left parties in the EU.

Who dunnit?

What’s the cause of this surprising development? Social Democrats, after all, were the driving political party in many a European country in the so-called post-war period.

In a nutshell, it is the rise of protest politics that is sapping the electability of 20th century social democratic/labor parties.

Britain is no exception. There are possibilities that the Labour Party might form the next government after the next parliamentary elections in May. But the new populist nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party is quietlyhollowing Labor’s white working class support. It is also expected to win a key by-election on November 20th in a seat which until 2010 was held by Labour.

The centrality of Germany

At least at this juncture, the only country in Europe that seems to inspire confidence – and that people want to turn to for leadership, economic partnership and to get close to – remains Merkel’s Germany.

 

Nothing New In Ukip-Style Anti-Immigrant Politics

Anti-immigrant politics was not invented by Ukip

Denis MacShane

The other night I found myself on the high table at All Souls College, Oxford beside a young man who if many modern politicians are to be believed should not be there.
He was a Pole, or more accurately a Brit-Pole who spoke not a word of Polish. He had won a prize fellowship to All Souls but somewhere in his family past there had been an immigration to Britain.
Yet to listen to Conservative and Labour ministers and their shadows trying desperately to respond to the rise of anti-immigrant emotions incarnated by Ukip’s success in ballot boxes this year this brilliant young intellectual, or his forebears should not really be in our country.
When I began my political life in Birmingham in the 1970s, the anti-immigrant passions were associated with Enoch Powell who was also the first heavyweight Eurosceptic. Four decades later hostility to the EU and hostility to foreigners living here have fused into a toxic politics that no-one dares challenge.
It isn’t new. In the 1930s the Church of Scotland’s Church and Nation Committee called for unemployed Catholics to be sent back to Ireland, a country most had no contact with as their parents or grandparents had arrived in Scotland decades or a century before.
The Orange and Protestant Political Party standing on an anti-immigrant platform won a Lanarkshire seat in the Commons in 1923. In the 1930s anti-Irish Catholic parties – the Scottish Protestant League in Glasgow and Protestant Action in Edinburgh -took up to a third of the votes in local council elections just as Ukip did in May this year.
From my earliest days in politics – I stood for Labour in the 1974 general election – the issue of immigration has been a doorstep constant. When I became MP for Rotherham in 1994 I heard on every canvassing round moans, often unpleasantly racist, about the “Pakis” – the 8,000 strong Kashmiri community in the town. As asylum seekers from different conflict zones were dispersed across the country – Kosovars, Somalis, Iraqis amongst others – I was told endlessly that they were sponging off the taxpayer and “should be shipped home” just like the Irish in Scotland were meant to be deported in the 1930s.
There are 1 million Romanians in Italy and 34 per cent of the Swiss population is either a new or first generation immigrant. Each richer EU country gets workers from countries they have links to. 250,000 Polish soldiers and their families settled in Britain after 1945. Already by 2000, Easyjet and Ryanair were flying daily between big British cities and main Polish cities. The decision of the Labour government in 2004 to make legal the new EU citizens who came to work in the UK ensured that all the Poles had to pay taxes, National Insurance, and rented homes from British landlords as well as filling up catholic churches. Germany and France tried to maintain controls against new EU citizens but soon gave up and copied Britain.
Labour sold 495,000 council homes between 1997 and 2009 but in Yorkshire built just 24. So the sense of the local working class – many of whose parents were inward immigrants in previous generations – that the new incomers were a threat to jobs, housing or social benefits was strong.
Yet every study shows that the EU workers make a massive net contribution to government revenue. There are about 100,000 immigrants from Commonwealth countries including many dependents who arrived for arranged-forced marriage purposes or are elderly and want to see out their days with family in Britain.
26 per cent of NHS hospital doctors are foreign and it seems perverse to attack immigration when without immigrants so much of our public services cannot function.
Many of the EU incomers are really “semigrants”. They come and work but fly back home regularly. More than 2 million Brits work in the EU and if the view promoted by many politicians that quotas should apply to Europeans in Britain than there will be nasty shock when EU nations reciprocate with quotas on Brits. 145,000 people arrive in Britain each year intending to stay here for more than 4 years. But 208,000 British citizens leave the UK each year intending to live and work abroad for more than four years.
Whenever there is unemployment, poverty, uneven distribution of national wealth, and local workers displaced by economic change, finding a scapegoat in the non-Brit – the Irish in the 1930s, the Poles more recently – is the first resort of the low-rent politician.
But finding high-vision politicians ready to stand up against these passions has always been a difficult search and never more so than today.

Denis MacShane is the former Minister for Europe

After the IOC Can All EU Recognise Kosovo

After the IOC Recognises Kosovo Why Don’t EU Member States

In two years’ time the flag of Kosovo, an outline of the small Balkan nation on a blue blackground will be carried throught the 2016 Olympics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro as the International Olympics Committee has decided to recognise Kosovo and allow its athletes to compete.
But if the IOC can recognise Kosovo why are five EU member states dragging their feet and playing into the hands of Russia and other opponents of a united EU foreign policy.
Take Greece for example. Fifteen years ago, Greece transformed its global image by reversing decades of frozen relations with Turkey by reaching out to Ankara following Turkey’s 1974 invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus.
The Greek initiative helped open the way to Turkey being seen as a major partner of Europe, even potentially an EU member state.
Today, few think EU membership is on the immediate horizon for Turkey. But there can be no doubt that — thanks to wise Greek foreign policy — both Greece and Turkey enhanced their geo-political status and strengthened their economic links as the 21st century opened.
Now, can Greece look north and help the new EU foreign affairs chief, Frederica Mogherini, move forward on the semi-frozen conflicts of the Western Balkans?
The newest European nation is Kosovo. Like other nations that emerged from the debris of Yugoslavia, Kosovo organized a passive resistance to Serb domination in the 1980s and 1990s.
When Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his militia warlords to try and keep Kosovo as a province under Serb control, a short sharp war of independence took place from 1998-99, which resulted in the Serbs finally giving up control.

In 2008, Kosovo declared itself an independent nation-state and was recognized as such by most world democracies but not Russia, where Putin led a global diplomatic campaign for his friends in Serbia to refuse recognition.
It didn’t work and Kosovo now has diplomatic relations with 110 UN member states – though Moscow still vetoes full UN membership.
Last month, however, the International Olympics Committee decided that Kosovo can take part in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games.
At the same time, the Serbian government hosted a visit by the Kosovo Foreign Minister, Enver Hoxhai – the first ever visit by a Kosovo foreign minister to Belgrade. The Belgrade foreign policy expert, Dragan Popovic, hailed Hoxhai’s visit as a breakthrough.
The highly important symbolic visit by the Kosovo foreign minister and the announcement that the IOC would admit Kosovo to the Olympic family is a major step forward in the long, hard process of reconciliation in the western Balkans.
It has been nearly 30 years since Slobodan Milosevic made his famous speeches near Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. It heralded the start of the long Yugoslavia conflict. A major collateral victim was Greece, as it lay helpless at the far end of a European region engulfed in war, violence, ethnic cleansing and refugee flows.
But as the rest of the EU and NATO backed Kosovo by recognizing its right to exist, Greece went into a diplomatic sulk.
Athens was already furious that Macedonia had taken the name of the northern region of Greece and the polarized nature of Greek politics meant that any politician who sided with Kosovo (and the United States, Kosovo’s main sponsor) would be accused of betraying Orthodox co-religionists in Serbia.
So while 110 nations have now established diplomatic relations with Kosovo, Greece is not one of them. Along with four other EU member states – Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus, Greece rejected the EU decision that Kosovo should be treated as a sovereign nation state.
Each country had its own reasons. Spain worried about Catalonia. Cyprus wondered if there was a precedent for the northern third of the island occupied by the Turkish army since 1974.
Romania and Slovakia were concerned about irredentist Hungarian nationalist politics which lays claim to Hungarian-speaking regions in both countries.
But today it is the EU’s global foreign policy profile that looks weak and without credibility. Around the world the EU wants to be taken seriously as a global player but people ask how serious that claim can be when Europe cannot sustain a united line on something as relatively minor as recognizing a new European nation.
To be fair, Greece has positive relations with Kosovo. Greek businesses are present helping the Kosovan economy grow. Greek diplomats at a representation office in Pristina do effective and respected work.
But Athens can take a further step and give important encouragement to Frederica Mogherini by joining with fellow EU member states and offering full diplomatic recognition to Kosovo.
Cyprus can do likewise. The island state is under pressure from Turkey over its territorial water rights. Cyprus needs all the EU support it can obtain and the best way to achieve this would be to show unity with the major EU foreign policy players by recognizing Kosovo.
Diplomatic recognition is not a cure-call for problems in the Western Balkans. But non-recognition is self-defeating. The Greeks are more Serb than the Serbs who are now coming to terms with Kosovo’s existence.
The United States refused to open an embassy in Soviet Russia and communist China for years, until reality kicked in.
Greece should quietly shelve its non-recognition of Kosovo and invite Frederica Mogherini and Jean-Claude Juncker to open the Greek embassy in Pristina. It would demonstrate that Greece was now contributing a solution to the EU’s many problems.
Denis MacShane is a former UK Minister for Europe and author of “Why Kosovo Matters” (Haus 2011)

Who Can Maureen Vote For?

Haaretz 10 November 2014

No one to vote for? British politics’ ‘Israel’ problem’
The U.K. Labour Party’s hostility towards Israel has triggered a Jewish celebrity’s very public defection. But supporters of Israel won’t find much comfort in other U.K. political parties either.
By Denis MacShane | Nov. 10, 2014 | 10:21 AM

One of Britain’s favorite TV stars, Maureen Lipman, has written a splendid splutter of anger about her beloved Labour Party to explain why after 50 years of loyal Labour membership she would not vote for its leader, Ed Miliband following the symbolic and over-hyped vote in the House of Commons by Labour MPs on recognizing Palestine.
Her article in the monthly Standpoint journal (the only serious U.K. political-literary magazine without a permanent disfiguring bias against Israel) is fun to read. She complains about Miliband, a secular Jew, eating a bacon roll on television. She protests that as the world wakes up to what Islamist terror means in the form of IS beheading anyone it doesn’t like, surely Britain’s Labour Party doesn’t have to turn its back on a country that is daily confronted with terrorist attacks and has to live with a permanent global campaign to deny its right to exist.
She concludes: “Come election day (in May 2015) I shall give my vote to another party. Almost any other party. Until my party is led by mensches.’ So the question arises: Which U.K. party can Maureen vote for?
If Labour (and Tory) MPs voting for recognition for Palestine – outside the bounds of negotiated two-state settlement – was bad enough, what does Maureen make of Conservative leader David Cameron describing Gaza as a ‘prison camp’, even though it had long been evacuated by Ariel Sharon and handed over to Palestinians? Was Cameron wise to enter into an alliance in 2009 with Polish MEPs whose leader had said: “I will say sorry for what happened to the Jews in Poland when the Jews apologize for what they did to Poles”?
Speaking on the BBC’s The World At One Sir Alan Duncan, a senior Tory MP and former minister, supported the vote to recognize a Palestinian state and said that U.S. policy on Israel was controlled by “financial interests.” He didn’t quite say Jews – but we got the message.
On to the U.K.’s third-largest parliamentary party and coalition partner in the current Tory-led government. Might Maureen vote for the Liberal Democrat Party, home to a peer, Jenny Tonge, who has out-Hamassed Hamas propagandists in support of attacks on Israel? The Liberal Democrats currently boast an MP – David Ward – who said he would fire rockets into Israel. Naturally the Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg did not discipline him.
Alternatively Maureen can vote for the Greens, whose MP and former leader, Caroline Lucas, blamed the murder of Jews in Mumbai on Israel and who has been consistently hostile to the right of Israel to live free of terror attacks.
Then there is UKIP, whose leader, Nigel Farage, has forged an alliance in the European Parliament with Poland’s Congress of the New Right, an openly anti-Jewish Polish party whose leader talks of the ‘Holocaust industry.”
Moving even further towards the fringes, there is the Respect Party, whose single MP is Saddam Hussein’s old chum, George Galloway. He has been calling for Israeli-free cities in the U.K.. Anyone remember who first used the term Judenfrei?
The Scottish Nationalists’ anti-Israel positions are well-known and the SNP boss, Alex Salmond, has called for an arms embargo on Israel. As Scotland’s First Minister has done nothing to stop anti-Jewish campus attacks in Edinburgh University.
In short, poor Maureen Lipman may well have difficulties in finding a party she can vote for if she wants unqualified, out-and-out support of Israel at all levels as a condition for casting her vote. Even though I have not checked the line on a Palestine state of the wildly eccentric Official Monster Raving Loony Party, and I assume the Flat Earth Party has cut out Israel from its map of the (non) globe.
Six years ago I wrote a book, ‘Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism.” I hoped I was describing a high watermark. Instead anti-Jewish hates and prejudices have reached new heights; and Israel is sliding towards the same status that South Africa enjoyed twenty or thirty years ago.
The one thing pro-Israel supporters should not do is to retreat from engagement with democratic politics. More people should be in parties to expose and denounce anti-Jewish bigotry, and to find smarter ways of explaining the history and politics of the region so that at least one MP in the British Parliament actually knows what is in the Hamas Charter, as well as being better informed about how the rabid hate of Jews, not just Israel, is central to all Islamist politics, and is sadly now infecting European politics as bigotry, xenophobia and prejudice replace reason and tolerance.
Denis MacShane is the U.K.’s former minister for Europe. Follow him on Twitter: @denismacshane

British Commentators Worried About Brexit

EU Reporter  5 November 2014

‘Brexit’ worries hit British press

Denis MacShane | November 5, 2014

 

There is no something approaching panic in the British commentariat that the United Kingdom may be edging to the point of no return on staying in the European Union.

A number of senior and respected writers on international affairs are now expressing open worry that David Cameron’s language on imposing quotas on EU citizens who wish to travel to the UK represents such a fundamental breach in the principle of free movement that such policy would be incompatible with EU membership.

There have always been mutterings in private seminars and meeting but for the first time major European policy commentators are beginning to press the alarm button,

The immediate reason was an article in Der Spiegel which appeared to have come from the Kanzleramt in Berlin and thus represented Merkel’s views. She was reported to have sighed and said the UK could leave the EU if David Cameron insisted on abolishing free movement of EU citizens as far as Britain is concerned. The four freedoms of movement – of capital, goods, services and people – are considered the cornerstones of Europe. Remove or tamper with one of them then the others also lose the sanctity and any government can start imposing quotas on goods or capital flows it does not like.

If Mr Cameron’s proposed 2017 In-Out referendum happens will he even argue that Britain should stay in the EU asked the influential Charles Grant who heads the Centre for European Reform in his Financial Times column: ‘Faced with a surge of euroscepticism in his Conservative party, and convinced he must satisfy demands to curb immigration he is on the brink of making radical demands that his EU partners will reject. When the referendum comes, he may have little choice but to campaign for withdrawal.’

Grant was echoing a point made by Hugo Dixon in the New York Times. He wrote: ‘If the prime minister commits himself to getting the right to impose quotas, the logic of his position will force him to campaign to quit the union — assuming, that is, he wins next year’s general election and is in a position to hold his promised in/out referendum. Dixon went further. ‘It might even be helpful if business leaders, most of whom normally back the Conservatives, made clear they were rethinking their support. Although Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, is not an appealing prospect as prime minister, at least he wouldn’t take Britain out of the European Union.’

This is the first time a senior business focused commentator has said a vote for Labour is preferable for the CEOs who want to stay in the EU.

In The Independent the sharp and respected political commentator Steve Richards said the Conservatives had to understand that EU leaders would do so much to help keep Britain in the EU but not what Tory and UKIP MPs and MEPs want. Richards quoted a German official. ‘In the early summer a close ally of Merkel expressed to me her stance in precisely the same way as outlined in the article, insisting it was a myth that the German leader would do whatever it took to keep the UK in the EU. He told me that the UK’s demands – and ultimate fate – were not even her main priority within Europe. Her overwhelming focus was on the eurozone, in which the UK plays no part. Yes, Merkel would prefer the UK to remain in, but not at any cost.’

Mary Dejevsky in the The Guardian echoed her colleagues and criticized Downing Street’s ‘abysmal record in reading German intentions. Time and again, Cameron has seemed to bank on what he sees as assurances of support from the German chancellor for his endeavours, only to be disappointed when it turns out that in a clash between London and Brussels, Germany’s loyalties will be to the EU.

“If Cameron has a failing as a politician it is in his ability to ‘read’ foreigners,” she added.

Eurosceptic think-thanks such as Open Europe are dreaming up schemes which involve limiting the rights of any foreigner coming into the UK to access social benefits for three years, a position also advanced by the commentator David Goodhart who suggests a 2 year ban on access to social benefits. But the main objection of the Tory-Ukip line is to the number of EU citizens who are in Britain not the level of benefits they receive. In any event, young healthy European workers are net contributors to UK government income. The main benefit claimers tend to be immigrants from Asia who come to marry or for family reunions and seek to access unemployment, child benefit and other welfare payments.

In short, there is now the first serious criticism by mainstream commentators on Mr Cameron’s line that the EU has to make major concessions to him notably in the area of free movement of people. The issue of Brexit is rising fast up the political agenda.

Denis MacShane is the former UK Minister for Europe. His book on Brexit will be published early in the New Year.

 

Putting More People in Prisons No Answer

Chris Blachhurst, the City editor of the Evening Standard and former editor of the Independent, writes a columns saying people who commit fraud should go to prison. This was a long interview with me on London TV.

I replied with this letter send to the Independent (and a similar one to the Standard)

Chris Blackhurst is keen for more people to go to prison because he seems to think that has a deterrent effect and reduces crime (Midweek view 4 November). If only. The UK has more than doubled the number of prisoners since Margaret Thatcher was in power. Did this massive increase in prisoners stops the fraudulent bankers, Libor-fixers, VAT cheats, home insurance premium fraudsters, tax-dodgers and the many others who have swindled people of money for personal profit?
Chris only has to look at this own excellent reporting on the City over the years to know his argument is nonsense and not backed by evidence.
In addition as someone not keen on ever-increasing public expenditure he does not explain who will pay for all the many thousands of fraudsters he wants to send to prison. As it is our useless prisons system costs £17 billion in terms of paying for Chris Gayling over-crowded prisons and the cost of recidivism as 50 per cent of all adult and 75 per cent of all young prisoners come back into prison within a year of release.
Other more intelligent countries have cut crime and punished the people Chris rightly wants something done to without dumping everyone with a conviction into prison. There are 9 million of us with a conviction – ask Nick Clegg who has one for arson. Should he have gone to prison for his youthful stupidity? Chris Blackhurst should not confuse the fury everyone feels when something wrong is done with intelligent policy to cut crime and reduce the ever growing money the British taxpayer forks out on pointless counter-productive mass incarceration because ministers, judges and journalists cannot think clearly.

Dr Denis MacShane