Tag Archives: European Union

EU fate at stake on muddy Greek border

By Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou
March, 2016

A volunteer (2nd L) gives away goods to stranded refugees and migrants, most of them Afghans, who find shelter on Victoria Square in Athens, Greece, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

A volunteer (2nd L) gives away goods to stranded refugees and migrants, most of them Afghans, who find shelter on Victoria Square in Athens, Greece, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

IDOMENI, Greece (Reuters) – In muddy fields straddling the border with Macedonia, a transit camp hosting up to 12,000 homeless migrants in filthy conditions is the most dramatic sign of a new crisis tearing at Greece’s frayed ties with Europe and threatening its stability.

For the last year, Greece has largely waved through nearly a million migrants who crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey on their way to wealthier northern Europe.

Now, on top of a searing economic crisis that took it close to ejection from the euro zone a year ago, the European Union’s most enfeebled state is suddenly being turned into what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras calls a “warehouse of souls”.

At least 30,000 people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East and beyond are bottled up in Greece after Western Balkan states effectively closed their borders. Up to 3,000 more are crossing the Aegean every day despite rough winter seas.

“This is an explosive mix which could blow up at any time. You cannot, however, know when,” said Costas Panagopoulos, head of ALCO opinion pollsters.

Men, women and children from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are packed like sardines in a disused former airport terminal in Athens, crammed into an indoor stadium or sleeping rough in a central square, where two tried to hang themselves last week.

The influx is severely straining the resources of a country barely able to look after its own people after a six-year recession – the worst since World War Two – that has shrunk the economy by a quarter and driven unemployment above 25 percent.

After years of austerity imposed by international lenders, who are now demanding deeper cuts in old-age pensions, ordinary Greeks say they feel abandoned by the European Union.

A staggering 92 percent of respondents in a Public Issue poll published by To Vima newspaper last Sunday said they felt the EU had left Greece to fend for itself.

The poll was taken before the European Commission announced 300 million euros in emergency aid this year to support relief organisations providing food, shelter and care for the migrants. But such promises do little to soften public anger.

“I want to spit at them,” said 40-year-old Maria Constantinidou, who is unemployed. “Those European leaders .. should each take 10 migrants home, feed them, look after them and then see how difficult things are.”

While the EU and Turkey will struggle to find a consensus at an emergency summit on Monday on how to stem the influx of migrants, Greece looks set to become Europe’s waiting room for months to come.

At Idomeni, a small border town in northern Greece, men from Syria held screaming babies close to a razor wire fence on Thursday, imploring Macedonian police they be allowed to cross.

Greece says it is a victim of geography; some EU partners say Greek fecklessness forced them to reimpose border controls, putting the future of a border-free Europe at stake.

“Its like watching a slow moving train wreck,” said Theodore Couloumbis, a veteran professor of international relations who is an expert on the Balkans and Greek foreign policy.

Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister who took Greece to the brink of a euro zone exit last year by battling creditors over bailout terms, says the crisis was symptomatic of a moral, political and economic trauma in the EU.

“Greece has been, as it always is, the weakest link in the organism and shows the biggest symptoms of disease,” he told Reuters.

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Migrants sleep on Victoria Square, where stranded refugees and migrants, most of them Afghans, find shelter in Athens, Greece, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Migrants sleep on Victoria Square, where stranded refugees and migrants, most of them Afghans, find shelter in Athens, Greece, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

CRISIS IN A CRISIS

The initial response from the public has been an outpouring of generosity towards stranded migrants, although a neo-fascist party, Golden Dawn, which advocates forcing immigrants out of Greece, has captured 7 percent of the vote in recent elections.

The migrant crisis threatens a nascent economic turnaround forecast in Greece from the second half of 2016, after six years of deep recession. Business leaders and the central bank have warned that the uncertainty could be a drag on the economy.

The main uncertainty factor is stalled negotiations between Athens and its creditors – the euro zone, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

A first review of economic reforms under the bailout plan agreed last August, which Greece wants concluded fast to move on to debt relief talks, has been held up by disagreement among the lenders over how much more Athens needs to save in public spending, notably on pensions.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos insisted on Thursday that cuts in basic pensions were a “red line” for the government.

Publicly at least, nobody is making linkages between the refugee crisis and the bailout review or discussing trade-offs between the two, which are being handled separately.

“It is certainly not my intention to say, ‘look, I have a refugee crisis and that gives me leeway to operate beyond the framework of the (bailout) agreement’,” Tsipras said in a television interview this week. “The agreement will be kept.”

One of the most hawkish creditors, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Reuters that while the EU should give Greece humanitarian aid, the bailout programme must be kept separate.

Greece is funded till July when it faces bond repayments to the ECB, so there is no immediate financial pressure.

But a worsening migrant flow could further complicate Tsipras’ attempts to sell painful bailout reforms to a public which already feels maltreated by its EU partners.

And some policymakers in Brussels, Paris and even Berlin acknowledge that having averted a Greek exit from the euro last year, this would be the worst time for another Greek financial meltdown or political upheaval.

Greeks don’t need much prompting to take to the streets. Mass protests are a regular feature in a volatile country of 11 million where pensions have been cut 11 times since 2010.

Pollster Panagopoulos said he doubted the dual crisis would topple the government, but Tsipras might call another election — after two general elections and a referendum last year — if he felt in a deadlock.

Stranded refugees and migrants, most of them Afghans, are seen on Victoria Square in Athens, Greece, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Stranded refugees and migrants, most of them Afghans, are seen on Victoria Square in Athens, Greece, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

CRISIS HOVERS OVER BREXIT

In mid-February, Greece briefly threatened not to sign off on final agreements at an EU summit on amending Britain’s membership terms unless Athens won assurances that EU states would not shut their borders. They did so anyway.

Now Tsipras has hinted at using the veto threat again to ensure his country does not become a holding pen for migrants.

“What I am seeking is the best possible outcome for Greece. Even if it means, to achieve that, using all tools provided for under (EU) conventions,” the leftist prime minister said in a television interview this week when asked if he could veto a deal between the EU and Turkey at a summit next week.

How Greece and the migrant crisis are handled may resonate at the other end of the continent in Britain, where voters will decide in a June 23 referendum whether to stay in the bloc.

James Ker-Lindsay, a Balkans expert at the London School of Economics, said leftist academics in Britain – a small but influential group typically supportive of the EU – were so dismayed by Brussels’ treatment of Greece in 2015 that it would not take much to alienate them completely.

“If it looks like a double dose harsh treatment, the euroscepticism which is coming in very strong from right-wing parties across the EU could start being repeated on the left, but for a very different reason,” Ker-Lindsay said.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Paul Taylor and Mark John)

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Nine things to know about Greece’s IMF debt default

By André Broome, University of Warwick
June 30, 2015

Greece is set to miss the deadline on its €1.6 billion loan repayment due to the IMF. The country’s stalemate with its international creditors and the decision to hold a referendum on its bailout offer means Greece will become the first advanced economy to default to the fund in its 71-year history.

Here are nine essential things to know about the default:

1. The long-term damage may yet be minimal. If Greece is only in arrears to the IMF for a short period of time, it may be shown leniency down the line. The IMF’s policy on overdue payments does distinguish between short-term and protracted arrears.

2. This is not yet a full-blown sovereign debt default by Greece. This is still a first for an EU member state, but the IMF is keen to maintain a distinction between a country being “in arrears” and a “default”. This important semantic distinction is also made by major credit rating agencies. It means the consequences for Greece may be temporary and small, if they are able to find a speedy resolution and make the payment.

3. Being in arrears to the IMF is not a new phenomenon. Since 1997, arrears owed to the IMF that were at least six months overdue have ranged from €1.5 billion to €3 billion in any given month. This is not a position any country wants to be in, however. It places Greece in the company of countries whose governments are widely seen as dysfunctional, or even “failed states”. The only countries with IMF repayments at least six months overdue in the past decade have been Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Liberia.

4. The IMF will not allow any country to access its resources while it remains in arrears. For the IMF to be involved in any future new support package, arrears payments will first need to be settled, without the possibility of rescheduling payments. This makes Greece even more dependent on EU funding to bring liquidity back to its banks – making the outcome of the July 5 referendum even more important.

5. The IMF may now treat Greece even more harshly. It is hard to overstate how seriously the IMF takes the issue of prompt repayment of loans. In the past, countries that have deliberately missed payments have had to make significant moves towards adopting IMF policy preferences in order to regain access to its financial resources. This could include things like meeting stricter spending targets and enacting fundamental tax and pension reforms to gain future access to funds.

6. Greece is the IMF’s biggest-ever debtor. This means the stakes for the IMF are higher here than in other countries. Greece’s €1.6 billion payment would be the largest payment ever missed to the IMF.

7. Future relations are going to be tricky. It is difficult to see how the IMF could work with the Syriza-led coalition government after this default. There is an intense political dimension to the stalemate with the country’s creditors. The IMF does not like countries playing hardball over loan conditions. It likes populist appeals and inflammatory rhetoric even less. And it is fundamentally opposed to giving favourable deals to governments that violate their obligations to the organisation.

8. Greece’s default is a disaster for the IMF’s credibility. There is no positive spin that can be put on this. The IMF relies on countries making their payment obligations no matter what. This is why so few countries in recent years have gone into protracted arrears with the IMF. Greece’s credibility is already in dire straits, but the IMF has much to lose from its largest debtor “behaving badly”.

The IMF is already under fire from developing countries where Greece is seen as receiving special treatment. Unless the IMF brings the hammer down on Greece now, future borrowers outside of Europe will also delay IMF loan repayments when it is inconvenient.

9. Expect a severe response. If no quick resolution is found after Greece’s referendum on its bailout, the IMF must react strongly to preserve its credibility with other debtors. In the short term, the IMF is likely to step back sharply from seeking a compromise position with Greece. The IMF will insist the government makes key policy changes and meets its scheduled repayments before bailout negotiations can resume.

In the longer term, if Greece remains in arrears, the IMF could take the extreme step of suspending the country’s membership. Even if Greece didn’t need access to IMF resources, being suspended from the organisation would be another first for an advanced economy, and would see Greece’s reputation in the international financial community plummet further. Countries that remain in protracted arrears, such as Zimbabwe, have to complete an informal “staff-monitored programme” of policy conditions without funding as part of the process of normalising relations with the IMF.

Taken together, these nine points highlight the dangerous waters that Greece, the IMF, and the EU have now entered. Regardless of the referendum result, it is difficult to see the IMF cooperating with the government in Greece in the near future. Either fresh elections or a monumental change in policy direction will have to occur for that to happen.

The ConversationCreative Commons

André Broome is Associate Professor of International Political Economy at University of Warwick. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Further reading on F&O:

The Greek tragedy: a drama with many villains and no heroes, Jonathan Manthorpe column (paywall)
EU makes last ditch effort to save Greek bailout
, by Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas, Reuters

 

 

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EU makes last ditch effort to save Greek bailout

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

A protester holds a banner in Greek colors in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece, June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

By Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas
June 30, 2015

ATHENS (Reuters) – EU authorities made a last-minute offer to salvage a bailout deal that could keep Greece in the euro as the clock ticked down on Tuesday, with Germany warning that time had run out to extend vital credit lines to Athens.

With billions of euros in locked-up bailout funds due to expire at midnight, the European Commission urged Greece to accept the proposed deal, while holding out hopes that some tweaks could still be possible.

If no agreement is reached, Greece will default on a loan to the IMF, setting it on a path out of the euro with unforeseeable consequences for the European Union’s grand currency project and the global economy.

Greek officials, who insist that a referendum on the bailout package on Sunday is part of the negotiating process, said they wanted a deal though there was no firm offer or move towards accepting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposals.

“We want a viable solution. If we get a credible proposal that leaves even a sniff of a viable solution, we’ll be the first to take it,” a senior finance official told reporters.

However prospects of a breakthrough were dampened by a cool response from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“This evening at exactly midnight central European time the programme expires. And I am not aware of any real indications of anything else,” Merkel said at a news conference with Kosovo’s prime minister.

“All I know is that the last offer from the Commission that I’m aware of is from Friday of last week.”

EU and Greek government sources said Juncker, who spoke to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras late on Monday, had offered to convene an emergency meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Tuesday to approve an aid payment to prevent Athens defaulting, if Tsipras sent a written acceptance of the terms.

He also dangled the prospect of a negotiation on debt rescheduling later this year if Athens said “yes”.

By early afternoon on Tuesday no firm response had been received from Greece, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters.

“As we speak, this move has not yet been received, registered, and time is now narrowing,” Schinas said.

The growing possibility that Athens could be forced out of the single currency brought into sharp focus the chaos that could be unleashed in Greece and the risks to the stability of the euro.

“What would happen if Greece came out of the euro? There would be a negative message that euro membership is reversible,” said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who a week ago declared that he did not fear contagion from Greece.

“People may think that if one country can leave the euro, others could do so in the future. I think that is the most serious problem that could arise.”

 

Pensioners line-up outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece hoping to get their pensions, in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Pensioners line-up outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece hoping to get their pensions, in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

DEFIANCE

The last-ditch bid from Brussels came as uncertainty built ahead of Sunday’s referendum, with a string of European leaders warning that it would effectively be a choice between remaining in the euro or reverting to the drachma.

Opinion polls show Greeks in favour of holding on to the euro but a rally of tens of thousands of anti-austerity protestors in Athens on Monday highlighted the defiance many in Greece feel about being pushed into a corner by the lenders.

Further rallies are expected in coming days, with a demonstration in favour of staying in the euro planned in central Athens on Tuesday.

Tsipras broke off negotiations with the Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank and announced the referendum on the bailout terms early on Saturday, giving voters just one week to debate the fundamental issues at stake.

Under Juncker’s offer, Tsipras had to send a written acceptance by Tuesday of the terms published by the EU executive on Sunday and agree to campaign in favour of the bailout in the planned July 5 referendum.

European Union leaders hammered home the message that the real choice facing Greeks is whether to stay in the euro zone or return to the drachma, even though the EU has no legal way of forcing a member state to leave the single currency.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned against turning the referendum into a personality contest between Tsipras and Juncker or Merkel.

“This is not a referendum on European leaders. This is a run-off vote: euro or drachma,” Renzi told the Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

“The Greeks do not have to say whether they love their prime minister or the head of the European Commission more. They have to say whether they want to stay in the single currency.”    

 

Giorgos, a 77-year-old pensioner from Athens, sits outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece as he waits along with dozens of other pensioners, hoping to get their pensions in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Giorgos, a 77-year-old pensioner from Athens, sits outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece as he waits along with dozens of other pensioners, hoping to get their pensions in Athens, Greece June 29, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

DEFAULT

Greece, which has received nearly 240 billion euros in two bailouts from the European Union and International Monetary Fund since 2010, is set to miss a 1.6 billion euro debt repayment to the IMF which falls due on Tuesday.

If that happens, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde will immediately report to the global lender’s board at close of business, Washington time, that Greece is “in arrears” – the official euphemism for default.

It will be the first time in the history of the IMF that an advanced economy has defaulted on a loan from the world’s financial backstop, putting Athens, which has seen its economy contract by more than 25 percent since 2009, in the same bracket as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Cuba.

Already the imposition of capital controls to prevent the crippled banking system from collapsing have given Greeks a bitter foretaste of the economic plunge that could follow exit from the euro.

Withdrawal limits of 60 euros a day have been fixed for cash machines and there have been long queues at petrol stations and in supermarkets as worried shoppers have stocked up on essentials like pasta and rice.

There were no immediate signs of serious shortages but if the banks remain closed, cash flow problems which have already been reported by some firms, could worsen.

“So far there are no problems with suppliers, but if the banks are still closed next week there will be a bit of a problem if they demand purely cash payments,” said Charisis Golas, owner of a small meat and dairy shop in Athens.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Additional reporting by Silvia Aloisi in Milan, Mark John in Paris and George Georgiopoulos and Lefteris Karagiannipoulos in Athens; Writing by Paul Taylor and James Mackenzie; editing by Anna Willard)

 Further reading on F&O:

The Greek tragedy: a drama with many villains and no heroes, Jonathan Manthorpe column (paywall)

Nine things to know about Greece’s IMF debt default, by André BroomeUniversity of Warwick

The Greek crisis in photos:

 

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Subscribe by email to our free FRONTLINES, a blog announcing new works, and the odd small tale. Look for evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. Some of our original works are behind a paywall, available with a $1 site day pass, or with a subscription from $2.95/month – $19.95/year. If you value journalism, please help sustain us.

 

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On the EU and David Cameron’s Base

360px-David_Cameron_officialDavid Cameron’s campaign to prevent the election of  Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission was a piece of sound and fury, writes International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. His defeat would seem, on the surface, conclusive — except when considered as a work of domestic politicking. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s column:

The humiliating defeat of British Prime Minister David Cameron in the election for the European Union’s top bureaucrat is probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

Cameron took a calculated risk in the fallout from May’s elections for members of the European Parliament, in which right wing anti-EU parties including the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) made unprecedented gains.

The results made Cameron’s credibility look threadbare, especially his pledge to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU. Cameron wants to grab back powers over national policy-making and legislation that have been handed over to Brussels. His plan is to put the results to a clear yes or no referendum in Britain in 2017, after the next general election, due in May next year.

But recent local and European elections in Britain show that a gathering tide of voters, both Conservatives and supporters of the opposition New Labour party, are so fed up with the intrusive nannyism of Brussels … read more (subscription required*)

*Log in on the top right of each page (or click here to purchase a subscription or a $1 site day pass) to read:

Cameron courts “heroic defeat” by European leaders

Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page is here.

 

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European ground shifts beneath supporter’s feet

Nigel_Farage_MEP_1,_Strasbourg_-_Diliff

Nigel Farage. Photo: Diliff

When all is said and done following the European Union elections, the person who really counts is the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, writes International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. Is Merkel correct in believing that surging support for rightwing parties stems from economic insecurity — and not a fundamental objection to EU powers? Still, EU supporters are treading with care. Excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column:

There is no comfort for Europe’s band of supporters of a bigger and more powerful political union that their side won nearly 64 per cent of the vote in last weekend’s election.

That victory cannot override the reality that parties that want to either radically reform or abandon the 28-member European Union (EU) doubled their support from the 2009 election to 36.4 per cent of the vote.

As leaders gathered in Brussels on Tuesday evening for an informal post-mortem dinner, the mood was markedly downbeat. Even the most avid EU supporters were displaying an unusual lack of certainty about the group’s immediate future.

French President Francois Hollande, for example, can, like all his predecessors, usually be depended on to respond to any crisis within the EU by issuing demands for more centralized European control and power.

Not today … read more*

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Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s page, with all of his columns for F&O.

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Scottish Independence: complex and vexatious

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World Pipe Band Championship, Scotland, 2011 Simon Fraser University Band, photo courtesy of SFU Vancouver

 Scots  will vote in a referendum on September 18 on separation from the United Kingdom. But the division of assets and liabilities in the break-up of a country is complex and vexatious – and in the case of Scotland, these matters are particularly difficult. The latest polls in Scotland, with the undecided vote discounted, shows 52 percent of respondents support staying with the United Kingdom while 48 per cent want independence.  An excerpt of International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe’s column:

Scotland’s First Minister and Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond is generally reckoned to be the canniest politician in the British Isles.

So it was entirely in keeping that he chose today, the day when the English patron saint St. George is celebrated, to cross the border to the northern English city of Carlisle to promote Scottish separation.

Salmond’s aim, with the campaign for Scottish independence heating up ahead of the September 18 referendum, was to calm anxieties. Little will change when Scotland becomes independent, Salmond underlined as polls show pro-separation supporters significantly narrowing the gap on the “no” vote’s slim majority …

It is in Salmond’s interests to minimize the implications of Scottish independence, which might come in 2016 if there is a majority for separation in the September referendum. But the potential fall-out not only for the United Kingdom, but also for Europe and the European Union is profound.

Log in to read the column, Scottish leader downplays difficulties of independence (Subscription or day pass required*)

Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s page, with all of his columns for F&O.

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Putin vs Obama: who is in step with the times?

As the world focuses on Ukraine and the dispute between Russia and the “West,” let’s take a step back for a wider view. Democracy — as a system of representative and accountable governments, operating under the rule of law mediated by an independent judiciary – is struggling or under threat in much of the world, from former Soviet satellite states now in the European Union to the Caribbean to the countries washed by an Arab Spring that has largely failed to blossom. International affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe looks at the big picture. Excerpt of his new column:

One of the more unfortunate pronouncements by United States President Barack Obama in this Ukraine embroglio was that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had put himself “on the wrong side of history.” Obama was not explicit, but his case appears to be that by intervening in the majority ethnic Russian eastern Ukraine, especially Crimea, Putin is pushing against advancing international values of respect for nation states, popular sovereignty and the rule of law. Yet as one looks around the world it seems it is Putin, far more than Obama, who is step with the times.

Log in first* to read the column, Putin more in tune with the times than Obama. Other recent Manthorpe columns on Ukraine and the state of global democracy include Beijing, not Moscow, is the home of imperialism, Europe carries blame for the Ukrainian violence, and Arab Spring still waiting to blossom.

*Jonathan Manthorpe’s columns are available with a modest subscription or a $1 site day pass to all work on Facts and Opinions. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

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European Union’s role in Ukraine mayhem: analysis

Europe is culpable for the violence in Ukraine, writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in his new column. Excerpt:

European leaders should not congratulate themselves too heartily for mediating the compromise agreement that, with luck, will end the demonstrations and appalling violence on the streets of Ukraine’s capital Kiev and other major cities.

It is, after all, sins of commission and omission by Brussels that have played a large part in stirring up the political chaos in Ukraine as its people try to decide if their future should be with the European Union (EU) or their old political overlord in the Soviet Union, Russia.

The EU’s first sin is that since Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it has been confronted with this stark, either-or choice.

Many of the 28 member states, and especially the administrative priesthood in Brussels, have no doubt that the virtues of EU membership are obvious. EU politicians and officials often display an irritating and sometimes destructive assumption that joining their club is the only rational action for neighbouring countries.

All too frequently in Brussels displays little understanding, and often naïve ignorance of the conflicting economic and political pressures felt by countries considering EU membership, particularly those that were part of the Soviet Union.

Log in to read the column, Europe carries blame for the Ukrainian violence.*

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