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3/31/16

US Presidential Elections: Ruling Elite Grows Desperate to Destroy Trump’s Presidential Bid - by Joachim Hagopian

Donald Trump - Republican elite is getting scared
This presentation examines why the globalists dread Trump as president. Like every human, Trump possesses his share of petty flaws and weaknesses. But the wave of exaggerated dispersions and insults slung on him say more about the slingers than about Trump. With this piece I’m neither advocating nor endorsing Donald Trump for president. Its aim is to simply examine the extreme reactivity coming from the elite to desperately plant another puppet as president fearing that an outsider of the Trump order could lead to a national uprising and revolt against globalism’s tyranny.  

Thus, it’s of critical importance for the American electorate to not be blindsided by the over-the-top cheating and nefarious barrage of subversive tactics being executed at the feverish, frenzied pace as we head toward home stretch to Election Day. 

Donald Trump is no saint. He was born with a silver spoon to a real estate developer father. He has enriched himself engaging in high profile real estate deals in New York and Atlantic City, and by the very nature of his profession as a real estate tycoon owning casinos, he has allegedly been involved in some shady deals.  
 
How much of his past will be investigated and uncovered in the coming weeks and months as he closes in on a possible GOP nomination for president remains to be seen.

Forget all the labels… Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, left, right. In 21st century American politics, they’re all totally non-relevant, meaningless sleight of hand, divide and rule weapons used by a handful of controlling families who’ve owned this planet for centuries with Europe’s Rothschilds and America’s Rockefellers most readily coming to mind. These ideological tags and labels have been an extremely effective means of neutralizing any and all potential threats from ever uniting to challenge or oppose the status quo power monopoly maintaining absolute control over planet earth increasingly during this last century. During the Great Depression nearly a century ago the globalist bankster J.P. Morgan boasted:
When through a process of law the common people have lost their homes, they will be more tractable and more easily governed by the strong arm of the law applied by the central power of leading financiers. People without homes will not quarrel with their leaders. This is well known among our principle men now engaged in forming an imperialism of [crony] capitalism to govern the world.  By dividing the people we can get them to expend their energies in fighting over questions of no importance to us.
Like the Democrats and Republicans forever squabbling to get nothing done in Congress as passable legislation that actually benefits the American people and not the special interests they’re beholding to. Since the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision six years ago, every powerful lobby group like AIPAC or every billionaire globalist can legally bribe politicians with unlimited campaign donations to vote according to their personal interests rather than the interests of the voting constituents. The Princeton-Northwestern study a couple years ago made it official, confirming that the United States federal government operates as an oligarchy, no longer the democratic republic historically taught in Civics 101.

The last US president that seriously threatened the ruling elite’s status quo was John F. Kennedy and Washington insiders within the shadowy government elite assassinated him and ever since have been firmly in control of America. But the turning point for the elite actually arrived exactly a half century earlier than 1963 with the passing of the Federal Reserve Act, followed eight years later by the creation of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the raw power driving the aggressively imperialistic US foreign policy.

Virtually>every president over the last century has either been a blue blood Anglo-elitist CFR man, a Yale Skull and Bones-er or high degree Freemason, and if the president wasn’t any of the above, you can bet the vast majority of his key cabinet posts were filled with these elitist members especially heading the Defense, the Treasury and State Departments.

A covert group of shadowy figures have virtually owned the US government for a very long time. We just know more about them now than ever before as the elite’s designated handlers of America’s top elected leaders. 

The elite’s favored candidate for president this year Hillary Clinton (with Bill and Chelsea CFR members) unabashedly disclosed who she receives her marching orders from when she addressed the CFR fresh off its second branch office opening in Washington in 2009 after founding member the Rockefellers had donated the land and building to the CFR in 1921 as its original New York headquarters. Here are Hillary’s exact words:
"I am delighted to be here in these new headquarters. I have been often to, I guess, the mothership in New York City. But it’s good to have an outpost of the Council right here down the street from the State Department. We get a lot of advice from the Council, so this will mean I won’t have as hard a go to be told what we should be doing, and how we should think about the future".
But business as usual amongst the most powerful people on earth appear to be seriously disrupted should anyone but Hillary become the next US president. This year’s meteoric rise of populist presidential candidate Donald Trump as the eccentric, unpredictable, cantankerous outsider as of late graphically illustrates the desperate dynamics currently in play threatening to potentially derail the globalist New World Disorder agenda.

 Recent news events nakedly reveal the elite’s lowdown subversions to defame and undermine Donald Trump’s increasing popularity amongst the American disenfranchised have-nots. Regardless of his enormously vain ego, vitriolic remarks and ambitious thirst for fame and power, Trump poses a serious threat to the current power broking neocons entrenched in DC as the elite’s chosen puppets fast implementing its design for one world government tyranny.

Because Trump’s run for presidency in 2012 was viewed as laughable political theater that abruptly went nowhere, his candidacy this year was customarily dismissed by elitists as yet more court jester buffoonery, totally miscalculating Trump’s potential surge to steal their thunder. With Super Tuesday’s results now in, Trump the jester is Trump the most probable Republican nominee inasmuch as he’s on pace to legitimately capture enough party delegates to numerically secure the nomination prior to the convention just four months away. NYT has him with 673 delegates to Cruz’ 410.

Meanwhile for the first time, Economist/YouGov Poll indicates the majority of Republican Americans at 53% now favor Trump over any other elitist club GOP candidate. The latest poll out of New York state has Trump winning 65% of New York Republicans’ support to Cruz’ 12%.

Like no other presidential contender or front-running party favorite in modern history, Donald Trump singlehandedly threatens to create such havoc within the plutocratic existing global order that those at the top of the power pyramid will literally stop at nothing to remove him from wrecking their long plotted prize of a one world government.

Read the complete report: Ruling Elite Grows Desperate to Destroy Trump’s Presidential Bid | Global Research - Centre for Research on Globalization

US Presidential Elections:."Wall Street’s Business Model Really Is Fraud". says Bernie Sanders - by Richard Eskow

Wall-Street is it rigged?
“I’ve said if the big banks don’t play by the rules, I will break them up.” says Hillary Clinton - Let us hope she keeps her word if elected.

Our nation’s largest and most powerful banks have repeatedly engaged in widespread fraud, causing both individual suffering and a recession that millions of Americans are still living through today.
They continued to commit the same frauds after the American people rescued them, and after they promised to stop as part of some major settlement agreements. There’s no reason to believe they’ve stopped today, and every reason to believe they haven’t.

Fraud is an essential part of Wall Street’s DNA. A 2015 survey, commissioned by law firm Labaton Sucharow, found that a deeply immoral culture had taken root among British and American bankers.
The survey showed that bankers’ ethical behavior is bad and getting worse. The percentage of bankers who believed their own colleagues had engaged in illegal or unethical behavior has nearly doubled since 2012. More than one-third of those earning $500,000 or more annually said they had first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace.

It also showed that financial institutions seem to condone, encourage, and protect illegal behavior. The survey found that “nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) believe compensation structures or bonus plans in place at their company could incentivize employees to compromise ethics or violate the law.” And it found “a proliferation of secrecy policies and agreements that attempt to silence reports of wrongdoing …”

William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in 2013 that there was an “important problem evident within some large financial institutions—the apparent lack of respect for law, regulation and the public trust,” adding: “There is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures …”

Which gets us to Bernie Sanders’ often-repeated refrain that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud.” A “business model” is a plan for making money. Is fraud really an essential part of the way Wall Street banks make money?

When it comes to retail banking – serving ordinary customers – they’ve already all but admitted it. After Congress moved to restrain some of the banks’ cheating and overcharging, a JPMorgan Chase executive said that customers with less than $100,000 in investments and assets would no longer be “profitable” for the megabank.

That’s tantamount to confessing that they need to bilk ordinary customers – by doing things like hiding overdraft charges, making checks bounce by manipulating the order in which they’re cashed, and charging excessive ATM fees – in order to make money as a consumer bank.

But that’s not the only line of business where banks commit fraud. The major offenses committed by our largest banks include “price fixing, bid rigging, market manipulation, money laundering, document forgery, lying to investors, sanctions-evading, and tax dodging.”

Wall Street has now paid more than $200 billion in fines and settlements for fraudulent activity. This almost unimaginable sum can be broken down into slightly more digestible (though still enormous) portions by looking at the amounts paid by individual banks.

As of last October, Bank of America had paid more than $77 billion to settle fraud charges. Citigroup, the megabank created with bipartisan cooperation from Republican Senator Phil Gramm and Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (who later became the bank’s chief executive), had paid nearly $20 billion.

(Newly released papers from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission show that the Commission voted to refer Rubin to the Justice Department for investigation, but there is no evidence that any action was taken.)

JPMorgan Chase, the bank that was once held up by pundits and politicians as the model of a well-run financial institution, paid more than $30 billion in fines and settlements over four years.

A new book entitled “JPMadoff” explores the bank’s relationship with the infamous Bernie Madoff, as well as its other ethical failures. Its authors listed many of JPMorgan Chase’s frauds in a letter to the US Department of Labor. Those offenses, along with the ones documented in a 2013 investors’ report

 Read more: Bernie’s Right. Wall Street’s Business Model Really Is Fraud. - NationofChange | Progressive Change Through Positive Action

Global Warming: Who are the Global Warming Skeptic Organizations - who also have lobbyists in Bruxelles?

Global warming is for real - Vested Interest fights change
An overwhelming majority of scientists agree — global warming is happening and human activity is the primary cause. Yet several prominent global warming skeptic organizations are actively working to sow doubt about the facts of global warming.

These organizations play a key role in the fossil fuel industry's "disinformation playbook," a strategy designed to confuse the public about global warming and delay action on climate change. Why? Because the fossil fuel industry wants to sell more coal, oil, and gas — even though the science clearly shows that the resulting carbon emissions threaten our planet.

Who are these groups? And what is the evidence linking them to the fossil fuel industry?

Here's a quick primer on several prominent global warming skeptic organizations, including examples of their disinformation efforts and funding sources from the fossil fuel industry. Many have received large donations from foundations established, and supported, by the fossil fuel billionaire Koch brothers.

American Enterprise Institute

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has routinely tried to undermine the credibility of climate science, despite at times affirming that the “weight of the evidence” justifies “prudent action” on climate change. [1]

For years, AEI played a role in propagating misinformation about a manufactured controversy over emails stolen from climate scientists [2], with one AEI research fellow even claiming, “There was no consensus about the extent and causes of global warming.” [3] A resident scholar at AEI went so far as to state that the profession of climate scientist “threatens to overtake all” on the list of “most distrusted occupations.” [4]

AEI received $3,615,000 from ExxonMobil from 1998-2012 [5], and more than $1 million in funding from Koch foundations from 2004-2011. [6]

Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) frequently provides a platform for climate contrarian statements, such as “How much information refutes carbon dioxide-caused global warming? Let me count the ways.” [7]

While claiming to be a grassroots organization, AFP has bolstered its list of “activists” by hosting “$1.84 Gas” events, where consumers who receive discounts on gasoline are asked to provide their name and email address on a “petition” form. [8]

These events are billed as raising awareness about “failing energy policies” and high gasoline prices, but consumers are not told about AFP’s ties to oil interests, namely Koch Industries.
AFP has its origins in a group founded in 1984 by fossil fuel billionaires Charles and David Koch [9], and the latter Koch still serves on AFP Foundation’s board of directors [10]. Richard Fink, executive vice president of Koch Industries, also serves as a director for both AFP and AFP Foundation. [11]

Koch foundations donated $3,609,281 to AFP Foundation from 2007-2011. [12]
American Legislative Exchange Council

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) maintains that “global climate change is inevitable” [13] and since the 1990s has pushed various forms of model legislation aimed at obstructing policies intended to reduce global warming emissions.

ALEC purports to “support the use of sound science to guide policy,” but routinely provides a one-sided platform for climate contrarians. State legislators attending one ALEC meeting were offered a workshop touting a report by a fossil fuel-funded group that declared “like love, carbon dioxide's many splendors are seemingly endless." [14, 15] Another ALEC meeting featured a Fox News contributor who has claimed on the air that carbon dioxide “literally cannot cause global warming.” [16, 17]

ALEC received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2012 [18], and more than $850,000 from Koch foundations from 1997-2011. [19]

Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University

From its position as the research arm of the Department of Economics at Suffolk University, the Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) has published misleading analyses of clean energy and climate change policies in more than three dozen states.

These economic analyses are at times accompanied by a dose of climate contrarianism. For example, BHI Director David Tuerck has claimed that “the very question of whether the climate is warming is in doubt…” [20] Claims such as “wind power actually increases pollution” can be found in many of BHI’s reports.

BHI has publicly acknowledged its Koch funding [21], which likely includes at least some of the approximately $725,000 the Charles G. Koch foundation contributed to Suffolk University from 2008-2011. [22]

Cato Institute

Cato acknowledges that “Global warming is indeed real…” But when it comes to the causes of global warming, Cato has sent mixed messages over the years. Cato's website, for instance, reports that “… human activity has been a contributor [to global warming] since 1975.” [23] Yet, on the same topic of whether human activity is responsible for global warming, Cato’s vice president has written: “We don’t know.” [24]

Patrick Michaels, Director of Cato’s Center for the Study of Science, has referred to the latest Draft National Climate Assessment Report as “the stuff of fantasy.” [25] The most recent edition of Cato’s “Handbook for Policymakers” advises that Congress should “pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide.” [26]

Charles Koch co-founded Cato in 1977. Both Charles and David Koch were among the four “shareholders” who “owned” Cato until 2011 [27], and the latter Koch remains a member of Cato’s Board of Directors. [28] Koch foundations contributed more than $5 million to Cato from 1997-2011. [29]

Competitive Enterprise Institute

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has at times acknowledged that “Global warming is a reality.” [30] But CEI has also routinely disputed that global warming is a problem, contending that “There is no ‘scientific consensus’ that global warming will cause damaging climate change.”  [31]

These kinds of claims are nothing new for CEI. Back in 1991, CEI was claiming that “The greatest challenge we face is not warming, but cooling.” [32] More recently, CEI produced an ad calling for higher levels of carbon dioxide. [33] One CEI scholar even publicly compared a prominent climate scientist to convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. [34]

CEI received around $2 million in funding from ExxonMobil from 1995-2005 [35], though ExxonMobil made a public break with CEI in 2007 after coming under scrutiny from UCS and other groups for its funding of climate contrarian organizations. CEI has also received funding from Koch foundations, dating back to the 1980s. [36] 

Heartland Institute

While claiming to stand up for “sound science,” the Heartland Institute has routinely spread misinformation about climate science, including deliberate attacks on climate scientists. [37]

Popular outcry forced the Heartland Institute to pull down a controversial billboard that compared supporters of global warming facts to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski [38], bringing an early end to a planned campaign first announced in an essay by Heartland President Joseph Bast, which claimed “… the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.” [39]

Heartland even once marked Earth Day by mailing out 100,000 free copies of a book claiming that “climate science has been corrupted” [40] – despite acknowledging that “…all major scientific organizations of the world have taken the official position that humankind is causing global warming.”

Heartland received more than $675,000 from ExxonMobil from 1997-2006 [41]. Heartland also raked in millions from the Koch-funded organization Donors Trust through 2011. [42, 43]

Heritage Foundation

While maintaining that “Science should be used as one tool to guide climate policy,” the Heritage Foundation often uses rhetoric such as “far from settled” to sow doubt about climate science. [44, 45, 46, 47] One Heritage report even claimed that “The only consensus over the threat of climate change that seems to exist these days is that there is no consensus.” [48]

Vocal climate contrarians, meanwhile, are described as “the world’s best scientists when it comes to the climate change study” in the words of one Heritage policy analyst. [49]

Heritage received more than $4.5 million from Koch foundations from 1997-2011. [50] ExxonMobil contributed $780,000 to the Heritage Foundation from 2001-2012. ExxonMobil continues to provide annual contributions to the Heritage Foundation, despite making a public pledge in 2007 to stop funding climate contrarian groups. [51, 52]

Institute for Energy Research

The term “alarmism” is defined by Mirriam-Webster as “the often unwarranted exciting of fears or warning of danger.” So when Robert Bradley, CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy Research (IER), and others at his organization routinely evoke the term “climate alarmism” they do so to sow doubt about the urgency of global warming.

IER claims that public policy “should be based on objective science, not emotion or improbable scenarios ” But IER also claims that the sense of urgency for climate action is due not to the science that shows the real and growing conequences of global warming. Rather, IER suggests that researchers “exacerbate the sense [that] policies are urgently needed” for monetary gain, noting that “issues that are perceived to be an imminent crisis can mean more funding.” [53]

IER has received funding from both ExxonMobil [54] and the Koch brothers [55].

Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

The Manhattan Institute has acknowledged that the “scientific consensus is that the planet is warming,” while at the same time maintaining that “… accounts of climate change convey a sense of certitude that is probably unjustified.” [56]

“The science is not settled, not by a long shot,” Robert Bryce, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow has written in the Wall Street Journal [57]. At other times Bryce has expressed indifference to the science on climate change. “I don’t know who’s right. And I really don’t care,” he wrote in one book. [58]

The Manhattan Institute has received $635,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998 [59], with annual contributions continuing as of 2012, and nearly $2 million from Koch foundations from 1997-2011. [60] 

Read more : Global Warming Skeptic Organizations | Union of Concerned Scientists

3/30/16

Middle East: Russia Is Maintaining Most of Its Military Aircraft and Equipment in Syria, US Officials Say

aken at face value, most of Russia’s troops and aircraft were supposed to be out of Syria by now, but that’s not the case, as Russia has kept more than two dozen of its military aircraft in Syria and continues to send military equipment to that country, U.S. officials said today.

The moves raise questions about what Russia may be planning for a longer-term presence in Syria.

At its peak, there were 42 Russian fighters and bombers based at the airbase outside of Latakia in western Syria, according to U.S. military officials. And it was estimated that Russian troops had grown to as many as 5,000 to support the air mission and to help Syrian forces with helicopters, tanks and artillery to support the Syrian Army’s ground offensives. 

Russian Defense Ministry video released shortly after the withdrawal announcement two weeks ago showed a mix of fighter, bomber and transport aircraft returning to bases in Russia from Syria. Officials at U.S. Central Command indicated at the time that it appeared the Russians were on track to keep their commitment of reducing their air force in Syria. 

But visuals can be deceiving as two U.S. officials tell ABC News there have been no military aircraft departures since then. Possibly as many as 28 Russian aircraft continue operating from the base, meaning two-thirds of Russia’s military aircraft have remained in Syria. And the officials say there appear to be no preparations for their departure any time soon. 

Russia has kept all 18 of the helicopters it had deployed to Syria, including some of its higher-end Mi-28 “Havoc” attack helicopters that are continuing to support Syrian ground forces fighting ISIS. And the Russian tanks and artillery deployed to Syria continue assisting Syrian Army offensives. As was the case in the regime’s recent recapture of the ancient city of Palmyra where Russian air power and artillery played a key role. 

Another indicator of the growing Russian role, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed the death last week of a Russian special forces "Spetsnaz" commander calling in airstrikes in the battle for Palmyra.
And more Russian assistance is headed to Palmyra as the Russian Defense Ministry announced the deployment of bomb disposal teams and equipment to help clear the city of mines and booby trapped explosives that may have been left behind by ISIS. 

The six-month Russian air campaign provided enough stability for Assad regime forces to improve its battlefield situation against rebel groups in northern Syria and also buying the regime some political leverage.

But in the wake of the partial withdrawal of aircraft, U.S. officials say it remains unclear what the Russian military intentions in Syria may be in the long run.

Read more: Russia Is Maintaining Most of Its Military Aircraft and Equipment in Syria, US Officials Say - ABC News

Tourist Industry: Tourists Steer Clear of Turkey After Bombings, Russia Clash - by Yeliz Candemir and Emre Peker

A string of terrorist attacks blamed on Islamic State or Kurdish militants, on top of a diplomatic feud with Russia, are battering Turkey’s vibrant tourism industry, which had been one of the few bright spots in a slowing economy.

Bookings for this summer are down 40% from last year, and hotel occupancy rates have plunged more than half, according to industry figures. Hundreds of hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and boutique resorts have been put up for sale.

And there is no end in sight to the turmoil. On Saturday, another bombing blamed on Islamic State killed four foreigners on a busy Istanbul shopping street.

“We didn’t dream of such a terrible situation,” said Bora Adali, a 35-year-old hotelier in Antalya, who is trying to sell his three-star resort. “We are facing a big crisis, and its scope hasn't yet been recognized.”

Tourism revenues tripled between 2001 and 2014, reaching a record $34.3 billion. In 2012, Istanbul joined the world’s top-five tourist destinations, according to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index.

For eight years, Mr. Adali tapped into that growth. His 43-room hotel in the seaside town of Belek, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted the Group of 20 summit in November, was often filled by Russian tourists.

But just weeks after that summit, Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane along the Turkey-Syria border that Ankara claimed had violated its airspace. Moscow denied the allegation and hit back with a trade embargo, including an effective ban Russian tours to Turkey. About four million Russians normally visit Turkey each year, the second-biggest group after Germany.

Turkey’s hotels and tourism-related businesses might have weathered the punitive Russian steps. But a series of suicide bombings frightened off a much broader stream of tourists from Europe.

Islamic State was blamed for twin-suicide bombings in Ankara last fall that killed more than 100 people at a peace rally. In January, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed a dozen German tourists in Istanbul near the Blue Mosque, one of the city’s most popular attractions.

Two car bombings over the past month in the capital killed dozens of people. Both were tied to Kurdish militants, signaling the insurgency was shifting its decades-old battle toward attacking urban centers and civilians instead of military targets in the mostly rural southeast.

The government has launched operations across predominantly Kurdish areas in southeastern Turkey to stamp out Kurdish separatists, including areas like Mardin and Diyarbakir, where tourism had thrived until the recent violence.

Officials have also tried to shore up the industry, which has seen almost 2,000 facilities catering to tourists listed for sale online in recent months.

Tourists Steer Clear of Turkey After Bombings, Russia Clash - WSJ

US Presidential Primary: by Bill Kaplan

On Saturday, Washington Post pundit Chris Cillizza opined: "The Republican Party had the worst week in Washington". Why? There was House Speaker Paul Ryan's ill-received speech about the "disheartened" state of politics (but no mention of GOP presidential contenders Ted Cruz or Donald Trump), injection of politics into the horrific terrorist attack in Brussels and "juvenile antics" (insults to wives) from Cruz and Trump playing out in Wisconsin. It was topped off with Trump once again calling for "torture" and Cruz pushing for police to "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods" in the U.S. Not winning hearts and minds.

Moreover, Wisconsin Republican leaders are in denial and enabling the self-destruction of the GOP. Trump's rhetoric and style are reminiscent of Italian fascist Benito Mussolini (Trump approvingly retweeted a quote from Mussolini). Trump is similarly both buffoon and authoritarian strongman: machismo, serial lies, xenophobic scapegoating of immigrants-minorities, super-nationalism and an undercurrent of violence. However, Cruz is not an alternative. Compare.

Trump shockingly disparaged Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain: "He's not a war hero", said Trump. "I like people who weren't captured." Likewise, Cruz slandered former Nebraska GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, also a Vietnam War veteran, by insinuating falsely that Hagel may have collected speaking fees from North Korea. It's the same on immigration -- who can be more draconian. Or torture. Trump wants it back on steroids. Cruz supports "enhanced interrogation" (euphemism). Both would shred the Bill of Rights.

But Wisconsin GOP leaders have their heads in the sand. Speaker Ryan says Trump is not an authoritarian (nothing about Cruz). Moreover, Ryan will support whomever the GOP nominates. And, Sen. Ron Johnson is "praying". Meanwhile Gov. Scott Walker makes nice about Cruz and has "fanciful" dreams about a GOP "open convention" selecting someone "not currently running" (wonder who?) Then there is Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who prattles on about supporting "the nominee, whoever that is, 100 percent".

But middle and working class Wisconsinites should trust what they see about Cruz and Trump. Neither will alleviate the economic misery in Wisconsin caused by unfair trade deals. Both lack solutions. Instead, they are in agreement about increasing disparities: oppose raising the minimum wage, praise Walker's war against unions and support more humongous tax cuts for the super-rich. However, Trump does trump Cruz. The Washington Post reported that Trump-branded clothing is made abroad by low-wage labor, under terrible working conditions. And, when Trump is in Janesville next week the press should ask him does he still believe that American "wages are too high", and about his excoriation "I fight unions very hard".

Finally, it's worth noting what author William Shirer wrote in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". Shirer said: In Hitler "the conservative classes thought they had found a man who, while remaining their prisoner, would help them attain their goals....an authoritarian Germany....(end) the power of the trade unions....restore the country to its place in the sun." We know how that turned out. 

Note EU-Digest: After watching last nights Republican debate I am now more convinced than ever that whatever our problems are in Europe we at least have quality politicians - how can such a great country produce such unqualified presidential candidates.  As to the Republican party - they are heading towards self- destruction. 


Read more click here WisOpinion

3/29/16

Refugee crises: Saudi Arabia takes very few Syrian Refugees but has 100,000 air-conditioned tents sitting empty

100.000 air-conditioned tents unused in Saudi Arabia
As Saudi Arabia faces mounting criticism for refusing to take in any of the millions of Syrians fleeing conflict in their homeland, it was revealed this weekend that the country has over 100,000 empty, air-conditioned tents that could house up to 3 million refugees.

The tents, located roughly 2,150 miles from Syria in the city of Mina, are only used a few days a year to house pilgrims on their way to Mecca for the hajj, the news station TeleSUR reported.

The huge tents are also fireproof and equipped with kitchen and bathroom facilities.

But while Europe struggles to find space to take in the millions of asylum seekers making the perilous journey there, Saudi Arabia has been largely unresponsive to the crisis.

According to the to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are about 500,000 Syrians living in Saudi Arabia, but they are not classified as asylum seekers and it is not known when they arrived in the country.

Other reports indicate that Saudi Arabia has not taken in any new refugees, along with Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Also it must be noted that no Gulf country has signed the U.N. Convention on Refugees, an accord standardizing the level of treatment of people fleeing to new countries.

Saudi authorities insist they had done all they can to support refugees by allowing them residency in the country, but say they do not brag about their support to the media.

Saudi Arabia says it has given $700 million in humanitarian aid to Syrians.

Saudi Arabia, however, has offered to build 200 new mosques in Germany to accommodate Muslim refugees.

EU-Digest




Global Arms Sales: The Netherlands ban arms trade with Saudi Arabia, but Canada will ‘respect’ its $15B deal - by Nick Logan

While the Dutch parliament has taken a step to chastise Saudi Arabia for its abhorrent human rights record, voting in favour of banning arms exports to the country,

Canada’s prime minister reasserted a controversial arms deal with the kingdom won’t be cancelled.

The bill put before Dutch lawmakers recently referenced Saudi Arabia’s rising tally of executions, 73 so far this year, and its bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen, which has led to more than 6,000 deaths — half of them civilians. A UN panel report leaked in January said the kingdom’s assault on civilian targets were “widespread and systematic attacks” and a violation of international humanitarian law.

Read more: Dutch ban arms trade with Saudi Arabia, but Canada will ‘respect’ its $15B deal - National |Globalnews.ca

USA Drug Epidemic: President Obama Takes Lead against Drug Abuse - killing more people than in car accidents

Heroin Applicator: Killing thousands of people yearly
President Obama sat down with those on the front lines of the U.S. heroin and opioid epidemic on Tuesday for a frank discussion about the country’s addiction crisis, calling the issue critical to his role in protecting the health of the American people.

“When you look at the staggering statistics in terms of lives lost, productivity impacted, cost to communities, but most importantly cost to families from this epidemic,” Obama said. “It has to be something that is right up there at the top of our radar screen.”

The President addressed U.S. opioid abuse, which has grown during his two terms in office, at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, a gathering of law enforcement, medical professionals, and treatment facilitators who’ve been impacted by addiction. Obama spoke on a panel for over an hour with two recovering addicts and two medical professionals, including moderator Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Since 2002, there has been a 286% increase in heroin-related overdose deaths, with a tremendous spike after 2010.

The term "responsible drug use" is a favorite saying of people who use drugs on a regular basis and want to proof they are not addicted. Unfortunately across the USA, more Americans die every year from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. 

In 2014, drug overdoses killed 47,055 people, the highest number on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority, around 28,000, involved opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin. In fact, heroin-related overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2010, totaling 10,500 in 2014. Bottom line: say no to drugs and if you run into or see a drug dealer report him or her to the police !

EU - Digest

Syria - the man of the hour: How Putin's Leverage Shaped the Syrian Ceasefire - by Gareth Porter

Putin and Obama: two intelligent and pragmatic leaders
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S Secretary of State John Kerry have clearly been the primary drivers of their respective governments’ policies toward Syria.

Their negotiations have already led to a Syrian ceasefire few ever expected to materialize and hold. In addition, Syrian negotiations on a political settlement now seem possible.

Washington and Moscow had to cooperate in order to get that ceasefire, along with the jump-starting of intra-Syrian negotiations. Those negotiations are now scheduled to begin next month, according to UN special envoy Steffan de Mistura.

However, the diplomatic maneuvering involved in getting there did not reflect equal influence on each other’s policies.

Putin’s Russia has now demonstrated that it has effective leverage over the policy of the United States in Syria, whereas Kerry has no similar leverage over Russian policy.

Kerry had appeared to be the primary driver of a political settlement last year. His initiative was propelled by a strategy based on exploiting the military success of the Nusra Front-led opposition forces, armed by the United States and its allies, in northwestern Syria.

Kerry viewed that success as a way to put pressure on both the Assad regime and its Russian ally. His goal? That they would agree for Assad to step down.

But that strategy turned out to be an overreach. Putin surprised the outside world by intervening in Syria with enough airpower to put the jihadists and their “moderate” allies on the defensive.

We now know that Kerry, still pursuing that strategy, asked U.S. President Barack Obama to carry out direct attacks on Assad’s forces, so he could have some “leverage” in the negotiations with the Russians over a ceasefire and settlement.

But Obama refused to do so. Russia’s on-the-ground success, especially in January and February of this year, conferred on Putin an even more clear-cut advantage in the negotiations with the United States over a Syrian ceasefire.

Even though the U.S. side was effectively outmaneuvered, the U.S.-Russian agreement on a ceasefire has proven to be far more effective than anyone had expected.

It is now clear why Putin was able to convert his new-found leverage into the one U.S. diplomatic concession that is necessary to any possibility of ending the war.

The agreement between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry was more far-reaching than what has been made public.

In one deft move, Putin has thus proved capable of having his way not just vis-à-vis Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but also the United States..

By shifting the conflict to the negotiating table, Putin’s moves have also added to Russian leverage on the Assad regime. The Russians can be expected to be active in suggesting ways to craft a Syrian agreement on new elections and constitutional reform.

The Russians have also ruled out any requirement for Assad to resign, but the Iranians are afraid that assurance is not ironclad.

Iranian officials strongly hinted privately in Vienna that they believed the Russians made a deal with the United States on a key sanctions relief issue at Iran’s expense in the final stage of the nuclear negotiations. They fear something similar may happen on Syria.

Note EU-Digest: It shows once again that when there is intelligent and pragmatic leadership in Russia and the US, in this case with Putin (President of Russia)  and Obama (President of the USA) that intelligent decisions, with the best possible results and the least chance for violence and human suffering can be made.Military confrontation should never be the solution in solving international disputes.

Read more: How Putin's Leverage Shaped the Syrian Ceasefire - The Globalist

Britain Brexit: The Brexit Referendum: Provincial England Versus London And The Celts - by Peter Kellner

For a great many voters, the side they will end up taking in the referendum will be a verdict on the kind of country we have become and how we got here.

Voter stereotypes are often wrong. Forget Mondeo Man and Worcester Women: there was – is – nothing special about them. On most issues, different groups vary less than might be imagined. On taxation, say, or the health service, or welfare reform, there is a large overlap in the views of Mail and Guardian readers, young and old voters, university graduates and those with few qualifications – even Ukip supporters and Liberal Democrats.

Europe is different. A special analysis for Prospect of recent YouGov surveys uncovers unusually deep divisions in public attitudes. For once the differences do match the stereotypes. There is a huge contrast between the kinds of people wanting Britain to stay in the EU and those wanting Brexit.

A separate survey, for Prospect, explores the roots of this division. It finds that voters on both sides agree that Britain’s economic problems are still severe. What divides them is what has caused these problems. But it is a measure of the downbeat mood of the nation as the referendum approaches that, given a choice of 14 EU countries in which to live, including the UK, most of us would pick one of the other 13.

Let’s start with the basic in-out numbers. YouGov questioned more than 16,000 people during the two weeks following the agreement between David Cameron and the rest of the EU heads of government on changes to Britain’s terms of membership. A sample this size allows us to look at sub-groups with some confidence. Overall, our sample splits 50-50 among those who take sides. We detected a modest shift from a slight majority for Brexit at the start of the fortnight to a slight lead in the second week for remaining in the EU. But, overall, neither side has a decisive advantage.

The graphic shows what we found. At one end of the spectrum, 91 per cent of Guardian readers want Britain to remain in the EU, while 97 per cent of Ukip supporters want Brexit. Apart from Ukip, the supporters of all the other significant opposition parties are strongly pro-EU, with 75-80 per cent saying they will vote for staying in. Conservative voters divide 56-44 per cent for Brexit; however, there are signs that the Prime Minister is beginning to win some of them round to the “remain” camp.

Read more: The Brexit Referendum: Provincial England Versus London And The Celts

3/28/16

US Food Safety: A Remarkable Triumph of Democracy Over Corporate Power, GMO Labeling Has Finally Arrived in the U.S. -- by Andrew Kimbre

GMO' Labeling: Corporate Hypocrisy On Steroids
For the last 15 years, numerous organizations and legislators have been battling to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. During that time 64 other countries have mandated this labeling, but not the U.S. Many of us in the food movement have said that it was not a matter of if we would join with these countries and have GE labeling, but when. Well, it looks like when may have finally arrived.

Over the course of just a few days, several major companies have announced they will label GE products, including Kellogg’s, ConAgra, Mars and General Mills. Earlier this year, Campbell’s announced it would label. What caused this wave of GE labeling? It certainly hasn’t been a sudden realization that more than 90 percent of Americans want labeling, which polls have shown for many years. And these companies have never been pro-labeling. Just the opposite. Each has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund massive PR campaigns opposing various state GE labeling initiatives.

This sudden turnaround was actually triggered by a remarkable triumph of democracy over corporate power that took place last week in the U.S. Senate. That vote involved an attempt to pass what many call The Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. This bill introduced by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) was specifically designed to rescind all state laws requiring labeling of GE foods. Of special concern was Vermont’s labeling law, which is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2016.

Feeling the pressure of the Vermont deadline, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto and other large chemical and industrial ag companies put enormous pressure on the Senate to pass the DARK Act. Against this array of powerful companies were tens of millions of Americans involved in the food movement.

Most mainstream media outlets predicted an easy victory for corporate power. But the companies soon realized they were in a serious battle. Their primary argument that labeling was going to raise the cost of food got shot down when the study they relied on turned out to be bogus, and food companies such as Campbell’s said the costs would be minimal. Their other argument was that without the DARK Act they would be confronted with a “patchwork” of different GE labeling laws. That argument also failed when it was demonstrated that Vermont’s requirements were the same as those in Connecticut and Maine, the only other states having voted for labeling.

Then they introduced a supposed “compromise” version of the DARK Act that would allow them to voluntarily indicate whether a product contained GE ingredients via QR codes, websites and call-in numbers. This proposal quickly ran into trouble when research showed millions of Americans could not even read QR codes. Half of low income and rural Americans do not own smart phones, nor do two-thirds of the elderly. This grossly discriminatory scheme would also force shoppers to triple or quadruple their shopping time to find out about GE ingredients. They would have to call in to inquire about a product, or take a picture of each product with their phones and upload them, assuming they were able to get on line.

The DARK Act was an obvious attempt to hide non-labeling under the guise of labeling. Senator Barbara Boxer correctly called the bill a “sham and an embarrassment.” Then it came down to the vote. By Senate rules, Monsanto and the big food companies needed 60 votes in the Senate to get the DARK Act to a final vote. Despite predictions, they didn’t even come close: the final vote was 49-48 against the bill. Democracy defeated corporate power. The right to know of Americans won. At that point several major food corporations saw that they were not going to be able to bully the Senate into erasing the Vermont law or those of other states. Within hours the dominoes began to fall as one corporation after the other announced they would comply with the Vermont labeling mandate.

Is the battle over? Hardly. Chemical companies, including Monsanto, and some major food companies will no doubt fight on, and try to find some other way to convince the Senate to circumvent Vermont and other state labeling requirements. It will be a hard sell. Will the Republicans in the Senate really allow a second vote on GE food labeling when they won’t even allow one vote on a Supreme Court nominee? Will they continue to listen to Monsanto when the company has already announced its plans to attempt to merge with a foreign company to avoid paying taxes in the U.S.? Whatever the corporate powers decide they can be sure of one thing: they will once again come up against a strong food movement. We must remain vigilant in defending our right to know. 

Read more: In a Remarkable Triumph of Democracy Over Corporate Power, GMO Labeling Has Finally Arrived in the U.S. | Alternet

United States: The End of Establishment Orthodoxy - by Richard Phillips

When Trump took his escalator ride, the Republican Party had become little more than a Ronald Reagan fetish, a parody of Reagan’s construct of “smaller government, lower taxes and stronger defense.”

Reagan’s acolytes, seeking to outdo each other and then to outdo Reagan himself, decided that if “smaller” government was good, “no” government was ideal.

Republicanism became a race to the right, fueled by the anger, acrimony and sulphur-laden rhetoric of the right- wing media. Going into the election, GOP policy had been reduced to a series of impractical ideological slogans. It subsisted on a steady diet of “Barack Obama.”

This approach did not serve the Republican electorate well. The Republican base, which had grown increasingly disenfranchised economically, was ripe for a politician who spoke in absolutes, challenged convenient assumptions and demolished all concept of orthodoxy.

Right-wing media dutifully teed up the balls for Trump. Meanwhile, mainstream media acted as if they were deer caught in headlights.

All Trump needed to do in order to win a big part of the Republican electorate was to make “policy” pronouncements that were even more extreme than any of his competitors.

But as outrageous as many of the positions Trump took were, they came down right in the middle of the fairway for a plurality of GOP primary voters.

And so it was that Trump went further right than any of his opponents on issues like “the Mexicans,” “the Muslims” and “the Chinese.”

The important point to realize is this: Donald Trump did not take the Republican Party to this place; the Republican Party took Donald Trump there! All he did was throw away the dog whistle.

When Trump discredits the (mainstream) media – which Sarah Palin and her cohorts call the “lamestream” media — for treating him unfairly and enforcing “political correctness,” he is merely trumpeting Republican dogma.

And what is the Republican alternative? Until Trump came down that escalator to announce his candidacy, no one seemed capable of getting further right than Cruz.

But now he is considered the moderate one, even though his policy proposals mirror Trump’s. Cruz is merely Trump without the flexibility Trump promises when he touts his deal-making prowess.

Insanely, Cruz is the last best hope for the GOP to get back to a sane course!

On the other side of America’s political divide, we find an unabashed exercise in political correctness. But in spite of the relative civility with which the Democratic primary campaign has been conducted, deep fissures have been revealed within the Democratic Party.

Americans seem to rankle at the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Many are unable to identify any of her accomplishments — other than those accomplishments that benefited Hillary herself.

She stands for the status quo. But because Hillary Clinton is unwilling to say outright that she stands for the status quo, she seems to stand for nothing – nothing tangible, at least.

Read more: United States: The End of Establishment Orthodoxy - The Globalist

Turkey: Turks say Dutch media distorts Turkeys anti-terror operation data

A news report on PKK terrorists by Turkish press agency Anadolu Agency (AA) was twisted and falsified by Dutch media outlets on Monday in an attempt to show the operations against PKK terror group as if they were conducted against the civilian Kurdish population.

"Turkish security forces have slain 5,359 Kurdish fighters since July last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Anadolu news agency Monday" said the Dutch broadcaster PowNed in a piece posted at 14:49 local time.

The piece titled "Erdogan: Turkish forces killed 5,300 Kurds" was also shared by Trouw, a tabloid Dutch newspaper.

The piece continues with inconsistent statements like: "The Kurdish separatist PKK said that the terrorist organization had already abandoned a two-year ceasefire in July," and stating that the violence has killed 355 soldiers and police officers mainly in southeastern Turkey.

But in fact, Erdoğan had said: "Within the same period [from July 2015 until now] 5,359 terrorists have been killed, injured or detained within the country and abroad," in a speech Monday at the military academy in Istanbul, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.

Read more: Dutch media distorts Turkeys anti-terror operation data - Daily Sabah

EU Terrorism : The ‘Trumps’ of Europe hamper cooperation on counter terrorism says Pitella - by Daniela Vincenti

European unity is essential to curb errorism
The blind illusion of some governments that think they can tackle global threats unilaterally must be blamed for the lack of cooperation in Europe to fight terrorism and find a common response to solve the migration crisis, said S&D leader Gianni Pittella, in an interview with EurActiv.

Gianni Pittella is the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) chief in the European Parliament.
Pitella spoke with EurActiv’s Editor-in-Chief Daniela Vincenti.

 Q: EU justice ministers on Thursday (24 March) agreed to set up a team of national counter-terrorism experts to strengthen Europol as a response to the Brussels attacks. Is that enough to deal the threats?

P: It cannot be enough. It is a positive step but there is a lot to do to make up for lost time. Paradoxically, the terrorism threat and the migration crisis could turn out to be an opportunity to finally turn Europe into a fully political Union.

Besides the shameful and clear shortcomings of the Belgium services, we must point the finger at the blind illusion of some national governments that think they can tackle global threats unilaterally. Intelligence services’ information is still jealously guarded and not shared amongst partners.
The sooner we realize that we need greater integration, the better we will protect citizens
This lack of cooperation is as evident as it is unjustified. It stems from the same silly attitude that prevents the setting up of a common European approach to the migration crisis.

The sooner we realize that we all need greater European integration, the better we will be able to protect citizens’ security and freedom.

Q: Some insist that successful counter-terrorism cannot be carried out by security forces, it needs to be carried out by intelligence services. What’s your view?

P: I couldn’t agree more. It is clear that security is a right that has no political colours. It belongs to all citizens. In front of tragedies such as those that took place in Paris and Brussels, European leaders should put aside their national selfishness and be ready to think and act differently.

They must deliver a European Intelligence Agency. Europol already has great potential and its database represents a unique and strong asset for Europe. The cooperation with National intelligence services must be strengthened, starting with data sharing.

 Read more: Pittella: The ‘Trump’ of Europe hamper cooperation on counter terrorism – EurActiv.com

Press exposure based on ratings: Terror attack in Lahore draws less media coverage

Geographical location tends to be an indicator of whether a deadly attack will get wide media coverage or not - we take a look at criticism of the perceived lack of media interest in the Lahore attack compared to other recent incidents of terror in Europe.

See the video report from  France24

Pakistan - Easter attack confirms Pakistani Christians’ worst fears

The worst fears of Pakistan's Christians came true with the carnage in Lahore on Easter Sunday, said activists who had braced for a backlash since thousands protested the execution of a murderer feted as an Islamist hero.

\Taliban militants said they were targeting Christians with the suicide bombing which killed at least 72 people, nearly half of them children, in a crowded park in Lahore as thousands marked Easter on a warm spring evening.

Christian leaders said they had been filled with foreboding ever since the government executed Mumtaz Qadri, who murdered a liberal governor calling for reform of the country's blasphemy laws.

Read more: Asia-pacific - Easter attack confirms Pakistani Christians’ worst fears - France 24

Freedom of the Press: Turkey (Erdogan) 'protests over EU consuls attending journalists' trial'

Turkey has protested to foreign missions over the presence of consuls from EU states at the espionage trial of two journalists, and their comments online, a diplomatic source said Monday.

"We have conveyed our discomfort to the concerned countries' representatives over the comments shared on social media which may constitute interference in the independent judicial process and which do not comply with impartiality," the source said.

The trial of two top journalists from the Cumhuriyet daily last week was attended by top diplomats including the British consul to Istanbul, who published pictures from the court on Twitter.

Read more: Flash - Turkey 'protests over EU consuls attending journalists' trial' - France 24

Airbus A400M Atlas: Did you see it? Plane-spotters joy as new Airbus A400M Atlas makes appearance in Gloucestershire skies

Airbus A400M Atlas
Eyes were craned skyward in Gloucestershire as an Airbus A400M Atlas flew over Cheltenham and Gloucester on Thursday.

The aircraft was conducting a training exercise practicing landing at Gloucestershire Airport in Staverton.

And many people took videos and still images of the plane, including David Willis who took the picture below from Benhall Park in Cheltenham.

The aircraft has a much larger capacity compared with older models the cargo capacity has doubled. The Aircraft can do electrical surveillance and aerial refuelling as well as transport.

The aircraft's intended use is for short soft landing strips and for long-range flight for transporting cargo.

3/27/16

Can NATO finally be made obsolete in Europe? : European Defense Cooperation needs to be expanded and reinforced

It is high time for a strong EU Defense Force
It has become quite obvious that European governments need to cooperate more seriously on defense matters .

European nations face an unprecedented confluence of security crises, ranging from unpredictable US and to a lesser extend also Russian military involvements across the Middle East and Eastern Europe, which are generating internal security dangers, including terrorist attacks and a large influx of refugees .

Since it is obvious that no EU country can cope in putting this together it has to be a defense force which includes all the military forces of the EU nations, with a central command.

One new but key dimension of the security challenges facing the EU is that the EU now has to simultaneously defend not only the territories of the EU, but also manage external crises. Another important aspect in this picture  is that the lines between internal and external security have become  increasingly blurred.

Against this backdrop, at a summit in June 2016 the EU is expected to adopt a new global strategy, which will set out priorities and guidelines for EU foreign, security, and defense policies.

This summit and other institutional processes are important, even though right now European defense cooperation is being pushed more by the amalgamation of national priorities than just by the efforts of the EU.

European defense cooperation will continue, but it is mainly bottom up—driven by national governments—not top down, meaning directed and organized by the institutions in Brussels.

For example, although the previous decline in European defense spending has stopped, national budgets have fallen by around 15 percent since 2008. Institutional orthodoxy holds that reduced national budgets, especially for military equipment, should spur more cross-border collaboration. In fact, the opposite has been true.

Between 2006 and 2011, EU governments spent around 20 percent of their equipment budgets on pan-European collaboration each year. By 2013, this figure had fallen below 16 percent, according to the European Defense Agency.

Similarly, European governments have become less willing to send soldiers abroad for peacekeeping operations and more selective about which missions they participate in. All the European members of NATO contributed to the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan during the 2000s, but less than half took part in NATO’s 2011 military intervention in Libya. The EU has deployed over 30 peace operations since 2003, but 24 of these were initiated before 2009, and the pace and size of new missions has dropped considerably since then.

European funding of NATO’s central role in European territorial defense has been reinvigorated since 2014, mainly as result of the Ukraine tribulations between the US and Russia. Conventional deterrence is back in Europe as a core task for European governments. But so far, even these efforts have remained relatively modest.

With a strength of only 5,000, the multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, under the flag of NATO prompts questions about the unit’s usefulness in an event of a military confrontation  with Russian forces.ccording to one recent war-gaming study, the longest it would take Russian military forces to reach the Estonian and Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga is sixty hours.

However, even if the EU is struggling to encourage much deeper collaboration among their members, it would be wrong to think that there is no progress on European defense cooperation. There are now nearly 400 ongoing military cooperation projects in Europe. These include initiatives such the European Air Transport Command in the Netherlands, which manages the missions of almost 200 tanker and transport aircraft from seven countries, and the Heavy Airlift Wing based in Hungary, which has helped eleven European countries procure and operate a fleet of C-17 transport planes.

Some countries are also working more closely in regional formats, such as Baltic, Nordic, and Visegrád (Central European) cooperation. And a number of European governments are pursuing deeper bilateral cooperation, including the integration of parts of their armed forces in some cases. Examples include Franco-British, German-Dutch, and Finnish-Swedish initiatives.

European governments are increasingly picking and choosing which forms of military cooperation they wish to pursue, depending on the capability project or military operation at hand. Sometimes they act through NATO or the EU, but almost all European governments are using other formats as well, whether regional, bilateral, or ad hoc coalitions. The combination of more complex security crises and reduced resources has meant that European governments are more focused on their core national interests than before, and both more targeted and flexible about how they wish to cooperate with the US or even among themselves.

The success of European defense cooperation will depend on the convergence or divergence of national policies, in particular the abilities of France, Germany, and the UK ( who collectively account for almost two-thirds of EU defense spendin)  to not only agree among themselves but to also convince other European governments to support a common approach.

It is high time for the EU to get their act together in the area of military cooperation, so it won't continue to be at the mercy of NATO and dragged into military adventures based on US foreign policy objectives. 

The expansion and improvement of an independent EU Defense force must also become an integral part of well defined Global EU foreign policy objectives, in order to become truly effective.

EU-Digest

Easter: What do Christians believe? - by Malcolm Clemens Young


More than one billion people will celebrate Easter this year in overcrowded cathedrals and refugee camps, in lonely hospital rooms and simple mud brick churches, at home and outside under the sun and stars.

They will observe the occasion with silence, elaborate ancient rituals and simple Bible study, with Gregorian chant and rock music, in huge crowds and alone. They will gather in middle-class suburbs and in places where Christianity is illegal and actively persecuted. They will do this out of a sense of deep gratitude to God, for the sake of appearances, out of guilt, joy, a love for music or tradition, or simply to please someone they love.

The whole idea of resurrection may seem difficult for nonreligious people to understand. It is not so easy for Christians either. Although Christians hold a number of conflicting views on Easter, including the date on which it should be celebrated, they also share much in common.

Since 2014, astronomers have hypothesized a planet with a mass of 10 times Earth exists about 50 billion miles away. Although Planet Nine has not been exactly located, scientists infer its existence from the behavior of nearby objects. In an analogous way, Christians believe in the influence of what is invisible on the visible world.

The philosopher and atheist Kenneth Taylor feels it is deeply important to teach his first-year Stanford University students that there is more to life than what he calls “getting and spending.” The word he uses for this is transcendence. He would probably not put it in quite these terms, but we are more than merely physical beings. Our lives are constantly shaped by story, myth and dreams. We cannot seem to make contact with the world as it is in itself, independent of human meaning. We experience desire, awe and mystery.

For Christians, this basic human experience of longing is connected to Jesus, a man who taught and healed people in first-century Galilee. He was especially known for welcoming outcasts and helping the poor. At his last meal with his friends, he washed their feet and told them the highest calling in human life involves serving others. This week, Christian leaders remembered Jesus’ compelling vision of love and justice as they washed the feet of immigrants on the steps of city hall in San Francisco.

According to the New Testament, no one saw Jesus come to life again. That first Easter Sunday was initially characterized mostly by confusion and chaos, as his friends struggled over what to believe. The idea of resurrection did not at first make sense to them.

Resurrection is not a fancy word for life after death, or the persistence of an eternal soul. It means the restoration of physical bodies and the world by God. It refers to a trust that God can make even the most appalling injustices right, that death is not the end of the story of God’s connection to us. Ultimately resurrection is not a theory based on an idea of nature or who we think human beings are but a conclusion that comes from an experience of God.

The appearance of Jesus to those first disciples has fundamentally changed the world. Christians opposed the brutality of the Roman Empire with people killed for sport by wild animals in massive arenas, with hundreds crucified along roadways, with its infanticide, slavery, endless wars and everyday cruelty.

Slavery, war and evil are still with us. But the human family regards these as horrors and not as the natural prerogative of the strong against the weak. We may not yet act as if every person is truly equal as a child of God but we are on the way to realizing Jesus’ simple vision. At its heart, this experience of the invisible, of transcendence, is the Easter dream.

Read more: What do Christians believe? - The San Francisco Examiner

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has his act together: "Unity is what is needed in Europe, not isolatio and nationalism"

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
Speaking at the 14th Norbert Schmelzer lecture in the Hague, Netherlands on March the 3rd 2016, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker noted.

"Dear Ms Schmelzer, dear Dries, dear Ben and others, dear Sybrand, dear Ruth, senators and members of the House of Representatives and of the European Parliament, ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to be here with you this afternoon. This is what one is always supposed to say on these occasions, but most people do not mean it. But this afternoon it is true because I really am happy to be here to deliver this Schmelzer lecture. I am especially happy because Ms Schmelzer has done us the honour of being here. This is the second time that I have been invited to give this lecture. If I am not mistaken, I am the only person to deliver it twice. Those who have done it only once must now be hoping that they too will get an opportunity to deliver it a second time. On the last occasion I was here, in 2007, Norbert Schmelzer was still with us. He died one year later. Norbert for me was a role model —someone you could look up to, someone who offered guidance, someone who always knew how to give European integration a deeper meaning in that he saw the European Union and its creation — the integration of a continent – in direct relation to European, and also Christian, values. So that is why I am glad to be here today.

When I was here in 2007, the world was very different to how it is now. We were full of optimism. It did not take much courage to support Europe, even though, after saying ‘No’ in 2005, many Dutch people found it hard to fully back Europe and the European Union. We are living in different times now. When I became President of the European Commission, it was already clear to me that we were living in a time of multiple crises. But I could not have imagined that it would become so serious, even though I raised the issue of refugee flows and migration in my address to the European Parliament at my hearing.

2007 was the year before the outbreak of the economic and financial crisis. Budgets were being brought under control, debt levels were coming down, unemployment was high though it had not reached current levels. That crisis, the financial and economic crisis, kept us on edge for years, particularly me, because I was unlucky enough to be President of the Eurogroup at the time.

We have not yet put that crisis behind us. But we have not been beaten by it because the countries of Europe, the Member States of the eurozone, found the strength to come together.

You will remember the issue of Greece. During the first half of last year we again came under extreme pressure to either prevent a Greek exit from the euro zone or speed it up. Some people were for, others against. I never wanted a Greek exit from the euro zone because slamming doors shut is not the way forward for Europe. And now we are plunged into other crises. The financial crisis did some good in that we were able to do two things: one, to remember the values — you spoke of Gaudium et Spes – that are the truly fundamental values of the European social market economy. One of the factors that brought about the crisis was because those primarily responsible disregarded the cardinal virtues of the social market economy. We know that now. Second, the crisis made us move forward with Economic and Monetary Union – something we had to do – so that today banks and the banking sector and the real economy are better prepared to withstand external shocks than they were in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Banking Union is making progress, though not as much as I would like. Banking supervision works. Everything we have achieved over the years is working well, although more must and will be done to complete Economic and Monetary Union.

It became clear to us in the aftermath of the crisis – and as I just said, the crisis is not yet fully over – that we needed to do more to address Europe's real issues. There is a virtuous triangle in European politics – as I explained to the European Parliament – consisting in the necessary consolidation of public finances. No one should think that public finances can be left to their own devices. Governments need to continue bringing down their deficits. Europe's deficit and debt levels are still too high.

The virtuous triangle is the consolidation of public finances, growth, and jobs and investment. Investment was the issue I pushed at the beginning of this Commission's term of office; if we compare the investment levels of recent years with those of 2007, we see that investment, whether public or private, is still 15 % down compared to 2007. And this applies to every country. Even Europe's biggest economy, Germany, has a level of investment that is 52 % lower than in 1991. There is therefore an investment gap in Europe that we are trying to address with the Investment Plan, which could mobilise €315 billion in public investment. €61 billion have already been mobilised under the Investment Plan in just three months.

It is not enough for Europe to talk about budgetary policy, economic policy, fiscal policy and so on. One must also show people that the European Union is also responsible, together with the Member States, for growth and jobs. Many of our fellow citizens hear only negative news about Europe: cuts, cuts and more cuts - and it was important when the Commission took office to talk about growth and jobs as well. Because Europe's biggest problem remains weak, very weak economic growth and scandalously high unemployment. In the years to come, we will of course also be judged on how we have dealt with the refugee crisis. But we will also have to answer questions as to why we have not been able to get unemployment down. And so this is a major, ongoing issue, alongside everything else we have to do.

The Commission receives an unending stream of criticism from many countries, which is understandable: they need the Commission to be a scapegoat when they are unable to do what they promised their electorate. This I bear patiently but ever less meekly. This Commission has achieved a paradigm shift, something we made clear in the election campaign, including here in the Netherlands, namely that European policies, and therefore the European Commission, deal with the really important issues facing Europe: to be big on big things and small and modest on smaller things

That is what we are doing. When I say this in elections and to the European Parliament, I get a lot of applause. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty, I get a rather different reaction. Because everyone sitting in the European Parliament, every national minister, everyone involved in politics has a very precise idea of what Europe ought to be doing. And if you ask what Europe ought not to do, again everyone has their own point of view. If it is then carried out, however, what an outcry there is. Led by Frans Timmermans, the first Vice-President of the Commission, we have emblazoned ‘better regulation’ on our banner because we think that Europe cannot go on dealing with everyone and everything; it gets on people's nerves. We prescribe, we demand, we sanction, things that no one is interested in.

We have taken yet another decision – one I knew nothing about because the decision was taken by the Member States but the Commission will be blamed anyway – this time to lay down how fast Christmas candles should burn. With a perfect sense of timing, we published it in the Official Journal of the European Union in time for the third Sunday of Advent. I was very surprised and wondered 'Who was responsible for that?'. It is said it was a Commission decision. But in fact it was the 28 Member States, acting at the behest of the candle industry. Only the United Kingdom and the Netherlands abstained; the UK and the Netherlands are often in the same boat, which is sometimes a good thing, though not always.

Consequently, we painstakingly examined all the draft legislation before the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers and withdrew over 80 drafts so that now only around 400 still have to be dealt with. We have announced 23 new initiatives. This is significant in that previous Commissions launched an average of 130 initiatives a year. And not all initiatives ended where they were supposed to. It is important to show that 'being big on the big things and small on the smaller things' is not just a slogan but what we genuinely do it. 'Better regulation' is of course also a very popular subject in the Netherlands, and we take it seriously in Europe too. I had and still have the impression that the more we interfere in people's everyday lives, the greater the already very considerable distance becomes between European citizens and European policies, and thus also the European Commission. Big ideas require big plans.

I am not talking about the Juncker Plan, though it’s a great thing (and it’s not called the Juncker plan just because I named it so but because many people thought that nothing would become of it and then it would be good if it bore the name of someone who could be blamed, so that is why the Investment Plan is called the Juncker Plan); I am talking about other things. We are taking European Energy Union very seriously. Energy is a continental matter, which makes such heavy demands on solidarity as do other matters. Energy union will come about. The digital internal market is being vigorously promoted, because, in digital terms, Europe lags behind other parts of the world and we have to reduce this digital gap. Banking Union and Capital Markets Union is another matter. Capital markets union is of key importance and is also being tackled in a very focused fashion. We have submitted all these plans and I am very glad that the European Parliament has endorsed all the projects, just as I am overall very pleased that the Commission and the European Parliament have found a new way of engaging with one another. It has always surprised me how it is that the Commission and Parliament always manage to argue in public over every little thing, even though they are the two Community institutions that should be working hand-in-hand to fashion the future of Europe.

I am the first Commission President to have been elected by the European Parliament, after we came up with the idea of choosing a leading candidate for the party lists. I have to believe that I was put into office by the people of Europe. I know so. Only the people themselves don’t know this; so we need to ensure that this method of selecting the Commission President – top candidate in a continent-wide election, Parliament approval – that this method does not disappear again. Because the European Council, shocked by the result of the first election, decided in June 2014 that for 2019 the way in which the European Commission President is appointed had to be reconsidered. And when 28 governments put their thinking caps on, the virtue of the outcome is not a God-given certainty and therefore every democrat needs to make sure that things remain as they are. There are quite a few former ministers here. And though it used not to be the case, sound common sense now follows what governments are doing, except that governments are far quicker. Thus sound common sense (which is not evenly spread across Europe anyway), does not fully succeed in getting through to the centres of government.

I am therefore very glad about the effective cooperation which the Parliament and the Commission have managed to achieve in the first twelve months of the new Commission, and I am very much of the view that the European Parliament wrongly comes in for criticism (often in the Netherlands too). People do not really understand the role of the European Parliament: it is a European legislator comparable with national parliaments and deserves the same degree of respect as national parliaments.

I said, in a moment of autobiographical weakness, that the new Commission (people only refer to the new Commission although it is already old and already has its first wrinkles) would be a political Commission because I had the impression, and still do, that the European project is increasingly seen as a problem rather than a solution. And that is precisely because we very often approach the continent's problems in a bureaucratic and technocratic manner. I have tried to change this by reinventing the Vice-Presidents of the European Commission and by giving them specific remits: for example, Frans Timmermans in the field of 'better regulation'.

These Vice-Presidents all come from small countries just as the Commission President comes from a small country - a Grand Duchy but a small country nonetheless. This is important because Commissioners and Vice-Presidents from smaller countries have different views on what needs to be done in Europe from the 'know-it-all's who arrive in Brussels from larger countries. And this really works very well.

I took care to ensure that fully mature and experienced professional politicians became Commissioners (not the way it once used to be, when the people sent to Brussels were those for whom no place could be found at home), but former Prime Ministers, four in all, and former Foreign and Finance Ministers so that in the Commission too, there is an overall understanding for the state of affairs and constraints facing the Member States. Many of those here today have, for their sins, attended Council meetings as national ministers. Now they are Commissioners, they understand better what they can propose and what they had better not propose because some governments would promptly object. To this extent, we are a political Commission in terms of our composition but also in the way we conduct political business in the Commission.

I said earlier that the Commission often comes in for a lot of criticism – we all used to be keen critics, though I am not quite so keen now; but that’s the way things are. What is not acceptable, though, is constantly seeking to take the Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, down a peg or two. Brussels does this, Brussels does that – Brussels is always doing something. And Brussels is always to blame for the dreadful state of the world. Brussels is to blame for a lot of things. But Brussels is not just 28 Commissioners. Brussels is also 28 governments. And it is quite impossible to dictate Europe’s direction against the will of the national governments and Member States. So when people say Brussels, they in fact mean themselves. The finger pointed at Brussels actually points to those who are always going on about Brussels, Brussels, Brussels. Yes, Brussels gets a lot of things wrong. But Brussels also does a lot of things right that governments would get wrong if Brussels weren’t there. So it does not help at all when people hurl criticisms of all sorts at the Commission, as the Italian Prime Minister has been doing these last few months; as the Polish government is doing; as the Finnish Foreign Minister did, when he said the Commission should not busy itself with the observance of fundamental rights in Poland, that was not Europe’s business but purely a matter for the Poles themselves – although the Treaty clearly calls on the Commission to watch over this kind of thing.

We now face a crisis – the refugee crisis – that we never thought would beset us. On taking office, the Commission devoted considerable space to the issue of migration, because we already sensed – sensed rather than knew – that something was coming. Anyone who has kept a careful eye on the world situation, anyone with a real concern for Africa rather than just talking about Africa, anyone who has observed the veritable exodus under way there over the years – there are 60 million refugees in Africa, 60 million of them – must have known something was coming. That it would happen on such a scale, in such concentration – that we never imagined. But that something was coming, quite literally – that we did know. As early as May last year, the Commission therefore put forward proposals – European proposals: namely that the refugees should be shared out – relocated – across all the Member States of the Union. The Council of Ministers approved the scheme last autumn. And the Member States – though not all of them – are refusing to implement their own decisions. It is the first time this kind of thing has happened in the European Union, for the Council to adopt legislation and then decide a few days later not to apply it. Here, we, the Commission will not back down from calling on the Member States to do what they have themselves decided. I know that it will not be easy. Because what is needed is not just for the Member States to be prepared to take in refugees – which they are increasingly willing to do, though not yet to the extent required. The refugees themselves must also be prepared to accept the invitation. What bothers me in particular – and we see it every day – is when refugees in Greece and Italy, especially Greece, simply choose where they want to go themselves. The refugees in Greece all say: Germany, Germany, Germany. That cannot go on. As a result, some countries have to bear a very heavy burden: Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands too – last year the Netherlands took in 57,000 refugees. That is twice as many as the year before. And this year the number will not be any lower unless we frame our policy to prevent it from happening. So we will have to focus hard on this issue all the time, making it clear to refugees – above all the genuine ones, not the economic migrants but the genuine asylum seekers who make their way to Europe to escape from war and violence – that it is not up to them to decide where to go, that it is up to the governments to decide where to assign them a home. Luxembourg was the first country to start implementing the decision. The Luxembourg government publicly announced in Greece that 30 refugees could come to Luxembourg. But no one wanted to go. It was like searching for a needle in a haystack to find 30 who were prepared to board a plane to Luxembourg – as if Luxembourg were the poorhouse of Europe. It is a very real problem and the message needs to be brought home again and again. It makes me weep to see the images that assail us. But it also has to be realised that the broad picture is not just black and white – yes, governments must do more, but refugees must also be cooperative.

We urgently need to strengthen the protection of our external borders, as is currently being done. On 15 December, the Commission tabled a comprehensive proposal for protecting the EU's external borders and coastlines, which governments approved in principle, although they are now having trouble implementing the decision. Council Working Groups, some 20 in total, are being held in which national representatives are saying precisely the opposite of what was backed by their heads of government at the European Council, which is holding up any real progress. However, if we fail to better protect our external borders, especially the border between Greece and Turkey, we will never manage to overcome the crisis. This is why, in Turkey and at its border with Greece, we have to bring the flow of refugees heading from Turkey to Greece, and then onwards to northern Europe under contIn the waters between Greece and Turkey, we now have NATO ships, although the exact demarcation is a subject of heated debate between the two NATO countries. NATO is helping, a fact which is proving difficult given Turkey’s reluctance to allow these ships into its waters. Nevertheless, we are managing to resolve the issue. Yesterday, Greece also began sending back refugees to Turkey – a fact which many are unaware of. Just yesterday, 308 refugees were returned. Although only a small number, this is the first time the readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey has actually been implemented.

With Turkey, we have agreed a Joint Action Plan, at a cost of €3 billion to Europeans. This is not €3 billion which will be handed over to Turkey, but €3 billion which will fund projects to help Syrian refugees in Turkey. We will be building schools and hospitals. There are hundreds of thousands of Syrian children currently living in Turkey who are not going to school despite being of school age. If we fail to manage the issue of helping children, in particular orphaned children, a lost generation will emerge. We cannot allow that. We must remain active on this front, as we currently are. Next week will see projects worth a total of €300 million getting under way, and over the coming years we will see more of the same if the need is still there.

Yesterday, the Commission agreed a €700 million emergency aid programme for Greece and other countries. However, the focus will be predominantly on Greece, given the large-scale humanitarian crisis beginning to unfold there – indeed, for many, it already exists. That is because Europe is not acting like it should. It is because there is not enough Union in the European Union and not enough Europe in the European Union, with Member States thinking that the refugee crisis can be solved by working alone, as nations. But only a European response can solve a Europe-wide problem that has been imported to Europe from other parts of the globe. Isolated national action, although sometimes understandable, in not welcome because when one country secures its own borders, this (a) does not solve the refugee problem and (b) will destroy the internal market completely.

People need to know that there are 1.7 million cross-border commuters in Europe. People need to know that 52.4 million cross-border freight transport operations occur each year in Europe. People need to know that it costs €53 when a lorry has to wait at a border for 30 minutes. Knowing how many lorries in the Netherlands travel between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands every day, you can soon work out how much this costs. The internal market will not survive the refugee crisis if we do not manage to secure our external borders jointly and if we do not move away from this senseless policy of countries doing whatever they want, without any thought for the impact of their actions on the neighbouring Member States.

It is regrettable that border access has been restricted by Austria, as this basically closes the border between two Schengen countries. Doing so has nothing to do with protecting our external borders. When, much to my disliking, Hungary built a fence along its border with Serbia and Croatia, this could be called external border protection given that those countries are not part of Schengen. It is not the ideal form of protection, but so be it. However, by closing the border once more between two Schengen countries, we are slowly but surely destroying the European internal market and everything associated with it. Consequently, we must resist this kind of thing vigorously.

We could talk for hours about the refugee crisis. That is indeed what our heads of government have been doing for the last six months and will be doing again next Monday, when talks will finally be held with Turkey. I would like to thank you, Léon, for saying that without Turkey, there is no solution to the crisis. Turkey is certainly a difficult partner. I could also talk for hours about human rights, press freedom and similar issues in Turkey. However, on the matter of stemming the flow of refugees, Turkey is the European Union’s most important partner – although in principle I am not in favour of pushing back the flow since it is my view, based on the Christian values adhered to in the European Union, that we are duty-bound to offer a new home to those fleeing war and violence.

What has become of us? The richest continent in the world, with 500 million inhabitants, and yet to say from the outset that we would be unable to accept one or two million refugees. Talking to the King of Jordan and the Lebanese Prime Minister, as I do on a regular basis, leaves me feeling ashamed. Jordan, a country with 8-9 million inhabitants, has taken over 630 000 refugees from Syria, a figure which excludes the 500 000 Palestinian refugees. In Lebanon, 25 % of the population are refugees, newly arrived from Syria. And we, as Europeans, say we can’t manage. What must the others think of us? This is ‘reputation damage’ we are inflicting on ourselves: people around the world who have always looked at Europe with great hope are suddenly discovering that we are mired in our own egoism, unable to agree with one another in order to tackle the refugee crisis decently.

I am therefore urging Member State governments to resist those ideas which are springing up everywhere: for example, the idea of taking national measures after the end of an EU Presidency. This is not the road we should be going down in Europe. Likewise, we must not trivialise the refugee crisis. This is why I have said that there are also obligations for refugees. We need to see the overall picture, look at everything that is happening, with a sense of solidarity. And given that the mass migration will continue, we need a permanent distribution mechanism between the 28 Member States of the European Union.

We are currently living in a time of referenda. Mr Orbán, the Hungarian Prime Minister, is holding a referendum on the basis for distributing refugees between all 28 countries. And these referenda seem to be contagious. The United Kingdom will be holding its referendum on 23 June – although that cannot possibly go badly because it is also Luxembourg’s National Holiday. All will be fine. The Hungarians will be holding their referendum, and then the Dutch, with the good experience of referenda which there is here, will be holding theirs on 6 April. I will not be interfering. I once said it would be a bad idea to vote ‘no’ and was, in turn, savaged by the Dutch press, as if to say no one ever has the right to talk about matters concerning the Dutch people. Seen the other way round, this would mean that the Dutch no longer have the right to talk about matters affecting other people, which, if it were the case, would leave the Dutch newspapers half-empty. In this respect, I'll say it loud and clear: having one’s say without coming across like a schoolmaster is pointless. I have not come to the Netherlands to say: listen here; you should do this and that. This is not how things are done, most certainly not in the Netherlands.

It is no laughing matter, however. If the Dutch vote ‘no’, Europe will have a problem. That problem is destabilisation. We need to bear this in mind, because Ukraine expects Europe to stick to what was agreed. We should not fall into the trap of thinking that this is about Ukraine joining the EU. Many Dutch people I talk to in Brussels – ordinary people, not Commission officials – make that mistake. In reality, it is about trade and trade agreements. I can hardly imagine an old, successful trading nation like the Netherlands rejecting a trade agreement with a country, like Ukraine, that is so important for European stability. So let me repeat: we need to explain to people that it is not about EU accession. Ukraine will not join the EU during my term of office. In any case, I have said – rather bluntly – that there will be no new members over the next five years, because I do not believe any of the countries in waiting will fulfil the conditions in that time frame.

We have rushed things in the past when it comes to enlargement. I am also guilty, because I thought it was an historic event and that we had to reunite European history and geography. Hence the accession of the ‘new’ Member States (in 2004). In some cases, though, we jumped the gun, and we will not make the same mistake again. Ukraine will certainly not join the EU in the next 20 to 25 years. Nor will it join NATO, Secretary-General. I actually wanted to talk about the Dutch referendum, not lecture the Ukrainians, but I know many Dutch people are very worried that this will be the first step to Ukraine joining the EU. But we can definitely say that is not the case. I would therefore be happy if the Dutch voted ‘yes’, because it is about the Dutch, Europe and the other parts of Europe. Everybody who goes to the polls will be a statesman and should ask themselves what the final outcome would be if everybody else voted like them. I know the Dutch are practical people, and I expect them to vote ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’, because the last ‘no’ caused a lot of headaches in Europe. Luxembourg held the Council Presidency at the time, and now a Luxembourger is in the Commission President’s chair, and I do not want to have to go through that again.

Just a word on ‘Brexit’ – though without really saying anything, as I have resolved never to say much on the frequent occasions when I talk about it, since it would not be fitting for a Commission President to interfere in the British referendum campaign. The Commission is even more unpopular in the UK than in other countries, and it is quite an achievement to be unpopular in the UK. Everything a Commission President or the Commission says to the UK has unintended consequences. I would only say that the Prime Minister obtained as much as he could and the other 27 leaders gave as much as they could. It is a fair deal for the UK and for the other Member States. I would be very happy if we could consign the issue to confines of history as quickly as possible, because if it drags on for years, everything will go wrong in Europe. That is why there can be no renegotiation with the British, whom I am otherwise very fond of, after a ‘no’ vote. Not just because the Prime Minister voted against me as Commission President, but also because this time he was extremely glad we were able to help him sort out his problem, a problem of his own making.

When talking about Europe, we should not forget why, after the Second World War, the States of Europe decided not to repeat the crass errors of the last century. And the people returning home from the front and the concentration camps at the end of the war did not complain about the tasks that lay ahead as much as we do today. When I compare my life with my father’s it is clear to me that we are very fortunate. We grew up in bright sunshine, while others still have to live in darkness. Our fathers and grandfathers knew nothing but rain, thunderstorms and hail. So what is at stake is still the same. Verdun – 100 years ago. Verdun is a poignant story, because of the terrible things that happened there, but also because, at the end of the 1920s, young people from Germany and France shook hands on its battlefields. Then 10 years later it all started again – peace can never be taken for granted. Anyone who thinks peace is everlasting could not be more wrong. War is again being waged in Europe. When there was talk of war in Europe a couple of years ago, people laughed it off. No one is laughing any more after the events in Ukraine and Crimea. And we had no cause to laugh because 20 years ago war was raging in Bosnia, Kosovo and throughout the Balkans, which remains a highly complicated and sensitive region of Europe. That is why we must not lose sight of the Western Balkans when it comes to the refugee question.

So, I think that Europe will always benefit if we constantly remind people that it is a great project for peace. Those who do not believe in Europe, doubt it, or are exasperated by it should visit the graves of our wars.

Thank you "

 EU-Digest