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Tag: Europe

Charles Krauthammer, RIP

Friday, 22 June, 2018

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist, Charles Krauthammer, died yesterday. He was 68. The cause was cancer of the small intestine. On 8 June, explaining what he called his 10-month “uncharacteristic silence,” Krauthammer revealed in The Post that despite surgery for the tumour last August, cancer had recurred and that he had only weeks to live.

“This is the final verdict,” he wrote. “My fight is over.”

Charles Krauthammer, a former psychiatrist and self-described Great Society Democrat metamorphosed into one of America’s most persuasive conservative voices. He originated the phrase “the Reagan Doctrine” for the president’s strategy of going beyond the policy of containment to actively encourage anti-communist insurgencies. He coined the term “unipolarity” to describe the era of American power after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, and he diagnosed as “Bush Derangement Syndrome” the response many people had to the presidency and even the very existence of George W. Bush.

This is from Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics:

“For the Europeans there really is a peace dividend, because we provide the peace. They can afford social democracy without the capacity to defend themselves because they can always depend on the United States.

So why not us as well? Because what for Europe is decadence — decline, in both comfort and relative safety — is for us mere denial. Europe can eat, drink and be merry for America protects her. But for America it’s different. If we choose the life of ease, who stands guard for us?”


The excuses we told ourselves

Tuesday, 25 July, 2017 0 Comments

That’s the title of the third chapter of that The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray. Snippet:

“Throughout the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, European governments pursued policies of mass immigration without public approval. Yet such vast societal change cannot be forced up a society against its will without a series of arguments being brought along to help ease the case. The arguments that Europeans have been given during this period range across the moral and the technocratic. They also shift according to need and the political winds. The Strange Death of Europe So, for instance, it has often been claimed that immigration on this scale is an economic benefit for our countries; that in an ‘ageing society’ increased immigration is necessary; that in any case immigration makes our countries more cultured and interesting; and that even if none of these were the case, globalisation makes mass immigration unstoppable.

Such justifications have a tendency to become intertwined and mutually replaceable, so that if one fails the others are always there to fall back on. They often start with economic arguments, but they can just as well start with moral arguments. If mass immigration doesn’t make you a richer person, then it will make you a better person. And if it doesn’t make your country a better country, then it will at least make it a richer country. Over time each of these arguments has produced sub-industries of people devoted to proving their truth. In each case the rationale comes after the events, so as to give the final impression of justification being sought for events that would have happened anyway.”

Tonight, chapter four. Murray’s writing is passionate and his arguments are intense so it is best to read the book in a series of sittings. This is an important work and it has arrived at a critical time. Europe’s leaders should not ignore the message.


Trump in Poland: The Three Seas vs. Nord Stream 2

Thursday, 6 July, 2017 0 Comments

The election of President Donald Trump was an existential shock for Poland’s liberal elites. And, like their pals the world over, they remain in grief and denial, unwilling and unable to comprehend what has happened to their certainties. That said, Poland’s conservative government didn’t appear thrilled by the change in Washington, either. Trump’s reputed admiration for Putin suggested that an emboldened Moscow would have a free hand to increase its intimidation of Warsaw, but the increasingly frosty climate between America and Russia has put that nightmare to rest. And that’s why President’s Trump speech today in Warsaw is so important, and it explains why Poland is greeting the US President as a hero. When the speech ends and Air Force One flies off to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, however, the success or failure of the visit will depend on President Trump’s position regarding the competing visions represented by the Three Seas initiative and the Nord Stream 2 project.

Poland

The Three Seas Initiative: This aims to unite twelve countries in Central and Eastern Europe by creating a North-South infrastructure, between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas, in the telecommunications, transportation and energy sectors. The main goal is challenge Russian influence in the European energy sector, and prevent Moscow from using energy as a weapon against neighbouring states.

Nord Stream 2: This is a second pipeline being built by Russian energy giant Gazprom and Germany’s BASF and E.ON energy companies. It will run in parallel to the first Nord Stream pipeline, which was completed in 2011, and it will carry gas under the Baltic Sea directly from Russia to Germany. Adjoining states regard this as a move by Russia to bypass traditional transit countries (Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Belarus and Poland) and see it as part of a long-term plan by the Kremlin to exert political influence over them by threatening their gas supply without affecting supplies to Western Europe.

As one can see, some of Europe’s oldest fault lines are exposed here. By calling their project the Tree Seas Initiative, the founders have revived memories of the Intermarium — a Polish-led bloc in Central and Eastern Europe as a bulwark between Germany and Russia. Some also regard it as a challenge to the EU and an act of potential separatism. Anything the US says and does, therefore, will be seen as hostile by some in Berlin and Brussels but all those who have been crying “Isolationism” since last November might admit that keeping this US administration interested in the affairs of Central and Eastern Europe is of value.

But, but, but… Last month’s vote by the US Senate to expand sanctions on Russia has rocked the boat. Part of that expansion will target European countries that cooperate with Moscow’s efforts to build out its energy infrastructure in Europe and the most prominent target is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The proposed sanctions would affect those who “…invest or support the construction of Russian energy export pipelines.” The Wall Street Journal has the details.

Europe and America. Russia and Poland. Oil and gas. It’s complicated.


WoTD: Servitization

Monday, 1 August, 2016 0 Comments

“I spent the past week at the University of Birmingham in England with a group of 16 Operations and Economics Professors from across Europe,” wrote Rosemary Coates on 6 July in Supply Chain Management Review. She was there to lecture and to represent the Reshoring Institute, which provides “research and support for companies bringing manufacturing back to America.” As we know, manufacturing jobs will be one of the hottest topics in the so-called Rust Belt states during the US presidential campaign, and both candidates have made their positions on the subject clear.

In her blogpost, Ms Coates noted, “Some of the biggest buzz of the week was around the idea of Industry 4.0 (the Internet of Things) and Servitization.” What might appear to some as a misspelling there, “servitization,” is a real word. But what is it?

“This is the process of companies transforming from simply producing a product to including service in the total product offering. The complete product package includes field service, service level agreements and pricing for spares and replacement parts. European manufacturers are way ahead in Servitization.

Some American companies such as Cisco Systems have been including product services and consulting services in their product offerings for many years. But US companies like Cisco, that understand a fully integrated product offering and co-sell product and services, are few and far between.”

The etymology here involves creating a word from “service + -ization.” One assumes “serviceization” was considered unspellable and so we got “servitization” instead. In jargon-speak, “servitization is a transformation journey that involves firms developing the capabilities to provide solutions that supplement their traditional offerings.”


#Brexit: Wolff on Johnson and Trump

Wednesday, 22 June, 2016 0 Comments

On one side of the Atlantic, Boris Johnson wants Great Britain to regain its post-war sovereignty, on the other side of the ocean, Donald Trump is promising to restore American greatness. The two are charged with opportunism by their opponents; of not believing in what they say. In the eyes of their supporters, however, the message is clear: It’s the real people against the elites. Well, that’s how Michael Wolff sums up the situation for USA Today in What the Brexiters and Donald Trump have in common:

“Both views, in addition to emphasizing national pride, also target as the enemy the superstructure of remote, seemingly soulless, modern governmental management. In the case of the Brexit campaign, the enemy is Brussels and the cold-blooded, unaccountable, ever-expanding, ‘bureaucratic leviathan’… In the case of the Trump campaign, the enemy is a political establishment of complex policy abstractions and self-interested bias that is not only embodied by Hillary Clinton but that has also hopelessly tainted most figures in the Republican party.”

Donald Trump is a political lone wolf, says Wolff, and “his hyperbolic and pugnacious retro views” may, in fact, “reinforce the technocrat’s uneasy hold on the uneasy status quo.” Boris Johnson, in contrast, is “a smart, popular, charismatic, as well as opportunistic, politician with wide support in his party.” If one ends up in the White House and the other in 10 Downing Street, there might be a meeting of minds on some matters, but the conceptual gap between the world’s sole superpower and a Britain that has turned its back on “global anomie” would be huge. Unbridgeable, perhaps.

Still, says Wolff, “there is a conservative message here of return, of cultural revanchism, of a search for national meaning, of a determined deviation from the modern norm, that has gone mainstream and that is not going away.” In the end, it all comes down to how people view their world. Does the future looks bright? Is life full of promise and do most people feel like they are doing well? Or does the future seem uncertain and prosperity and security more elusive? Voters in the United States in November and tomorrow in Great Britain must decide.

USUK


#Brexit: Michel Houellebecq makes his move

Tuesday, 21 June, 2016 0 Comments

10 September, 2001: The publishers of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform, Groupe Flammarion, who had been charged with hate speech in France, publicly apologized for any offense its anti-Islamic themes might have caused. The book ends with an Islamist terror attack on a resort in Thailand. On the following day, an Islamist terror attack did take place, not in Asia, but in the USA. However, the 2002 Islamist atrocity in Bali was remarkably similar to the one described in Platform.

7 January 2015: Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission is published. It depicts a not-too-distant Europe losing the cultural civil wars and France drifting towards an Islamic takeover. As fate would have it, the publication date coincided with the Islamist massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

23 June 2016: The day Britain votes on whether to leave the European Union, Michel Houellebecq’s exhibition of his own photography opens in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo. Houellebecq is cheering for Brexit: “I’d love it. I’d love it if the English gave the starting signal for the dismantling. I hope they won’t disappoint me. I’ve been against the [European] idea from the start. It’s not democratic, it’s not good,” he says in a Financial Times profile published at the weekend.

“I really like England, I really like the fact of it having been the only country, for quite a while, to have resisted Hitler. I’d really like it to leave, to signal the independence movement.” Michel Houellebecq

The first picture in his Rester vivant exhibition shows a angry reddish dusk seen from his apartment. A line from of his one of his poems: “Il est temps de faire vos jeux” (“It’s time to place your bets”) is superimposed onto the gory sky. Another image, France #014 (1994), shows the word “Europe” carved in concrete. With Houellebecq, the timing is always significant. Place your bets.

Irlande


Bad news for the Borgens

Friday, 19 June, 2015 0 Comments

Ah, those were glory days for the left. Helle Thorning-Schmidt became Prime Minister of Denmark on 3 October 2011 and almost simultaneously Borgen, a Danish TV series about the charismatic Birgitte Nyborg, who becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark, is the darling of the chattering class, which likes politically correct political fantasy. The icing on the (wedding) cake was provided by the fact that Ms Thorning-Schmidt’s husband is the reddish Stephen Kinnock. Familiar name? That’s right. Stephen is the son of Neil, who has entered the history books the only Leader of the Labour Party never to hold ministerial office.

And now? Well, let’s go over to Aisha Gani of the Guardian, which aspires to being the journal of a global Denmark. One can detect an air of grief here:

“From handing out red roses, to driving about in tractors. From tiresome Borgen references, to wooing fishermen on islands. From clashing on TV debates, to red and blue blocs. Yet in the end, after what has been a tightly fought contest in the Scandinavian nation, the centre-right has been voted in to govern the Folketing.”

The left lost recently in Britain and the polls in France and Sweden suggest that more change is in the offing. Borgen has ended.

Borgen


The sounds of Ten Cities

Saturday, 8 November, 2014 0 Comments

Take a generous sampling of electronic music producers and musicians from Europe and Africa, mix the lot together and let simmer for a few months. When you take the lid off, the outcome is delicious global dancefloor in the form of Ten Cities. Blurb: “As a result hip-hop from the squats of Naples, bass music from Bristol, experimental techno from Berlin or jazz-tinged deep-house from Kiev are thrust upon the pumping kuduro of Luanda, the free-thinking crackled electronica of Cairo, afro-jazz from Lagos or the Sheng street-slang of Kenyan rap.”

Ten Cities kicks off with Octa Push, two brothers from Lisbon, who pioneered the Portuguese bass music scene.


Writing and reading Europe

Thursday, 8 May, 2014 0 Comments

Can writers help establish a European identity? Or do authors reinforce borders? Is it possible to have a common European literature without a common language? More than 30 writers from 25 countries will debate these questions today and tomorrow in Berlin at a conference titled Is the European Dream Still Alive? Before they ponder these weighty issues, they might give some thought to what Julio Cortázar, the Argentine novelist and short-story writer, had to say about European writing:

“All European writers are ‘slaves of their baptism,’ if I may paraphrase Rimbaud; like it or not, their writing carries baggage from an immense and almost frightening tradition; they accept that tradition or they fight against it, it inhabits them, it is their familiar and their succubus. Why write, if everything has, in a way, already been said? Gide observed sardonically that since nobody listened, everything has to be said again, yet a suspicion of guilt and superfluity leads the European intellectual to the most extreme refinements of his trade and tools, the only way to avoid paths too much traveled. Thus the enthusiasm that greets novelties, the uproar when a writer has succeeded in giving substance to a new slice of the invisible; merely recall symbolism, surrealism, the ‘nouveau roman’: finally something truly new that neither Ronsard, nor Stendahl , nor Proust imagined. For a moment we can put aside our guilt; even the epigones begin too believe they are doing something new. Afterwards, slowly, they begin to feel European again and each writer still has his albatross around his neck.”


The New German Question does not have an Answer

Friday, 2 August, 2013 0 Comments

“The trouble with the German prescription for the eurozone is that it is — according to taste — either just not working or not working fast enough. One simple, theoretical point seems to me worth stressing. Germany, the export champion, has been described as Europe’s China. Just as not everyone in the world can be China, and if everyone were like China, China could not be China — for who would then buy its exports? — so not everyone in the eurozone can be Germany, and in the unlikely event that they did become like Germany, Germany could no longer be Germany. Unless, that is, you assume that the rest of the world would cheerfully expand its domestic demand to buy an all-German eurozone’s increased supply of exports.”

A witty, insightful snippet there from “The New German Question” by Timothy Garton Ash in the 15 August issue of the New York Review of Books. As Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Timothy Garton Ash is well qualified to discuss German questions, old and new. The fact that he is one of the few English historians who speak German fluently and has spent years living in the country copper-fastens his authority on the issues. Unlike some of his English historian colleagues, however, Garton Ash is sympathetic towards and supportive of the German position in most matters, European and global. Not everyone in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal or Ireland would agree with his conclusion: “Germany therefore needs all the help it can get from its European friends and partners. Only together can we generate the policies and institutions, but also that fresh breeze of poetry, to get the European ship sailing again. The answers to this new German question will not be found by Germans alone.”

This is a bit rich as Germany’s “European friends and partners” will have no say in the Bundestag elections on 22 September. Because they won’t be asked The New German Question, they cannot answer; they can only guess. And that’s Europe’s dilemma.

Germany


Kissinger dials Brussels, gets bickering Babel

Tuesday, 28 May, 2013 0 Comments

“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” That’s what Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said a generation ago and the persistence and the popularity of the anecdote can be attributed to the fragmented state of the Brussels-led union. Yesterday, the old rogue celebrated his 90th birthday and among the congratulatory tweets was this one:

If you’re wondering about the author, the Twitter account @eu_eeas provides the “Latest news from the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s Foreign & Security Policy Service led by Catherine Ashton.” Set up in 1 December 2010, with an initial budget of €9.5 million, this body, which is meant to act as the foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the EU, offers the budding Kissingers of today, in desperate need of a number, a website with a choice of 23 different languages. To be fair, upon clicking through and after finding the Contact page, one is presented with +32 2 584 11 11. Some might regard this as a modest return, given the body’s huge 2012 budget of €489 million, a fat-cat salary of €286,580 for “High Representative” Baroness Ashton and a staff of 3,500.

Stepping off the gravy train for a moment, we find that 12-hour talks in Brussels concluded yesterday with European foreign ministers unable to reach the unanimous decision required to extend the current Syrian arms embargo. According to this news report, “analysts say Assad will be playing much closer attention to voices from Washington and Moscow, rather than the bickering Europeans.”

What’s that number again?