Some recent items of interest

February 3, 2016


 
Paul Mason has a very good piece in the Guardian on the perfect storm engulfing Europe

“The refugee story has hardly begun. There will be, on conservative estimates, another million arriving via Turkey this year – and maybe more. The distribution quotas proposed by Germany, and resisted by many states in eastern Europe, are already a fiction and will fade into insignificance as the next wave comes.

Germany itself will face critical choices: if you’re suddenly running a budget deficit to meet the needs of asylum seekers, how do you justify not spending on the infrastructure that’s supposed to serve German citizens, which has crumbled through underinvestment in the Angela Merkel era?

But these problems are sideshows compared with the big, existential issues that a second summer of uncontrolled migration into Greece would bring.”


 

Meanwhile the flow of refugees, and the death and suffering, is growing.

“More than 52,000 refugees and migrants crossed the eastern Mediterranean to reach Europe in the first four weeks of January, more than 35 times as many as attempted the crossing in the same period last year.

The daily average number of people making the crossing is nearly equivalent to the total number for the whole month of January as recently as two years ago, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

More than 250 people have died attempting to make the crossing this month, including at least 39 who drowned in the Aegean Sea on Saturday morning after their boat capsized between Turkey and Greece.”


 

The Euro was intended to unite Europe, and it has abjectly failed to do so. However it has helped unite the economics profession, since the one thing that economists with wildly different positions, from the Keynesian to neo-classical, can agree on is that the Euro was, and remains, a bad idea.

This lecture by the admirably clear Professor Steve Keen (who maintains the informative Debtwatch website) explains why European Monetary Union, at least in the way it was implemented, has turned the economic crisis of 2008 into a localized Great Depression which is in danger of ripping apart the political and economic fabric of the European Union.
 

 


 

Yanis Varoufakis speaks to Nick Buxton, and Red Pepper, about why a pan-European movement for democracy is necessary. There is also a FAQ about the DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), the new pan-European movement for democracy which is being launched on the 9th of February.

I remain pessimistic about such a political initiative, I fear that only near or actual disintegration, in other words a near death experience, is going to shift things radically in the EU.

“The first was the audacity with which it was made clear to me that democracy was considered irrelevant. In the very first Eurogroup meeting that I attended, when I tried to make a point that I didn’t think would be contested – that I was representing a freshly elected government whose mandate should be respected to some extent, that it should feed into a debate on what economic policies should be applied to Greece – I was astonished to hear the German finance minister say to me, verbatim, that elections cannot be allowed to change established economic policy. In other words, that democracy is fine as long as it does not threaten to change anything! While I was expecting that to be the overall motif, I was not prepared to have it spelled out so bluntly.”


 

The Independent has an interesting article (although I suspect it may be an example of “Betteridge’s law of headlines”) about Turkey, the Kurds and the war in Syria entitled: “Syrian civil war: Could Turkey be gambling on an invasion?”

Developments in the next few months may determine who are the long-term winners and losers in the region for decades. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are advancing on several fronts under a Russian air umbrella. The five-year campaign by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s to overthrow Assad in Damascus, by backing the armed opposition, looks to be close to defeat.

Turkey could respond to this by accepting a fait accompli, conceding that it would be difficult for it to send its army into northern Syria in the face of strong objections from the US and Russia. But, if the alternative is failure and humiliation, then it may do just that. Gerard Chaliand, the French expert on irregular warfare and the politics of the Middle East, speaking in Erbil last week, said that “without Erdogan as leader, I would say the Turks would not intervene militarily [in northern Syria], but, since he is, I think they will do so”.

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