The (interim) nuclear agreement that was signed on 24 November 2013 by Iran and the so-called P5+1 group in Geneva is questionable on a number of grounds.
The Irony and Absurdity of the Negotiations: When the Guilty Tries the Innocent
The underlying logic for the Iran nuclear negotiations was (and continues to be) altogether preposterous: on one side of the negotiating table sat major nuclear powers who are all in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires them to have either dismantled or drastically reduced their nuclear arsenal; on the other side, an NPT–compliant country (Iran) that neither possesses nor pursues nuclear weapons—a fact that is testified to both by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Yet, in an ironically perverse way, the culprits have assumed the role of the police, the prosecutor and the judge, shamelessly persecuting and prosecuting the innocent for no other reason than trying to exercise its NPT-granted right to peaceful nuclear technology.
This obviously means that Iran is essentially negotiating under duress. Largely shut out of normal international trade, and constantly threatened by economic strangulation, it is essentially negotiating with a bullet to its head. As an astute observer of the negotiations has pointed out, “Iran voluntarily agreed to the [nuclear] deal the same way that a robbery victim voluntarily agrees to give up valuable possessions” to save his/her life.
The Imbalance between what Iran Gave and what it Took
To reach the interim deal, the Iranian negotiators agreed to a number of concessions with very little reciprocity in terms of relief from sanctions. These included: limiting its enrichment of uranium to only 3-5 percent purity, from the current level of 20 percent purity; rendering unusable its existing stockpile of 20 percent fuel for further enrichment; not using its more advanced IR-M2 centrifuges for enrichment; not activating its heavy-water reactor in Arak; and consenting to highly intrusive inspections.
This means that under the deal, the Iranian negotiators have agreed to more than freezing Iran’s nuclear technology; perhaps more importantly, they have reversed and rolled back significant scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs of recent years. One can imagine the feeling of disappointment (and perhaps betrayal) on the part of the many dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians who worked so hard to bring about such scientific advances; only to see them dishonored or degraded by reversing and freezing them at a much lower level.
In return for these significant concessions, the U.S. and its allies would agree: to unfreeze less-than 7 billion dollars of Iran’s nearly 100 billion dollars of oil revenue frozen in bank accounts overseas; to consider easing sanctions banning trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and auto industry; and to suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on insurance and transportation services for the drastically reduced sale of Iran’s oil.
The most crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banks, which served as the financial facilitators of international trade, would remain intact under the proposed interim deal.
Threat to Iran’s Sovereignty
A careful reading of the interim agreement reveals that the Iranian negotiators gave up more than scaling down and freezing their country’s nuclear technology and/or knowledge. More importantly, if implemented, the deal effectively places Iran’s nuclear program (through IAEA) under total control of the United States and its allies. This is no speculation; it follows from the interim deal’s vastly invasive inspections regime, which is described under the subheading “Enhanced Monitoring”:
- Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.
- Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.
- Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.
- IAEA inspector managed access to: centrifuge assembly workshops; centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and, uranium mines and mills.
The fact that provisions of “enhanced monitoring” tend to infringe upon Iran’s national sovereignty was implicitly acknowledged by the Washington Post when it reported on the morning following the signing of the deal (24 November 2013) that, according to Western officials in Geneva, the Iranian concessions “not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran” to make any changes in its nuclear technology “without being detected.”
Another indication of Iran’s national sovereignty being threatened is the interim deal’s establishment of “a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs. . . . This channel could also enable: transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and, direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad.” Although the financial channel would be using Iran’s own money, currently frozen abroad, it would not be controlled or managed by Iranians—sadly reminiscent of Iraq’s “oil for food” neo-colonial deal under Saddam Hussein.
Did Iran Have to Give up so Much for so Little?
Deprived of more than half of its oil exports/revenue, and largely locked out of the international banking and/or trade system, the Iranian economy and its people are already gravely suffering from the ravages of economic sanctions. Additional sanctions, which are pre-packaged and frequently brandished as a Damocles’ Sword in the background of the nuclear negotiations, are bound to further depress Iran’s economy and the living conditions of its people.
Under these circumstances, Iran basically faced (or faces) two options. One option would be embarking on the path of a war economy, as it has, in effect, been subjected to a brutal economic war by the United States and its allies. This would be similar to the eight years (1980-88) of war with Iraq, when at the instigation and support of regional and global powers Saddam Hussein launched a surprise military attack against Iran. The other option would be compromising its legal and legitimate rights to peaceful nuclear technology in order to appease the global bully (the U.S.) and its minions in the hope that this may prevent a further tightening of the noose of economic sanctions around the neck of the Iranian people.
During the eight-year war with Saddam’s Iraq, not only did the Western powers and their allies in the region support the Iraqi dictator militarily but they also subjected Iran to severe economic sanctions. With its back against the wall, so to speak, Iran embarked on a revolutionary path of a war economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population. By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers further succeeded in bringing about significant economic developments. These included: extensive electrification of the countryside, expansion of transportation networks, construction of tens of thousands of schools and medical clinics all across the country, provision of foodstuffs and other basic needs for the indigent at affordable prices, and more.
Despite its record of success, this option is altogether ruled out by today’s Iranian ruling powers. There are a number of reasons for this aversion to a regimented war economy. A detailed discussion of such reasons is beyond the purview of this essay. Suffice it to say that many of the revolutionary leaders who successfully managed the 1980-88 war economy have now become business entrepreneurs and prosperous capitalists. Having effectively enriched themselves in the shadow of the public sector economy, or by virtue of the political/bureaucratic positions they held (or still hold) in various stations in the government apparatus, these folks have by now lost all appetite they once had for the radical economic measures required by a war economy. Instead, they now seem eager to strike business and investment deals with their counterparts in the West.
More than any other social strata, President Rouhani and his administration represent the interests and aspirations of this ascending capitalist–business class in Iran. Representatives of this class wield economic and political power through the highly influential Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture (ICCIMA). Ideological and/or philosophical affinity between President Rouhani and the power-brokers residing within ICCIMA is reflected in the fact that, immediately upon his election, the president appointed former head of the Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian, a U.S.-educated neoliberal economist and an advisor to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, as his chief of staff.
It was through Nahavandian and the Iran Chamber of Commerce that, in September 2013, an Iranian economic delegation accompanied President Rouhani to the United Nations in New York to negotiate (behind the scenes) potential business/investment deals with their American counterparts. The Iran Chamber of Commerce also organized a number of economic delegations that accompanied Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif to Geneva in pursuit of similar objectives in Europe.
It is understandable, therefore, why major factions within Iran’s ruling circles, especially the Rouhani administration and their allies and co-thinkers, have no stomach for a regimented, war-like economy; and why, instead, they opted for compromises over Iran’s nuclear program. The question remains, however, why did they make so many concessions in return for so little? Did they have to compromise as much as they did?
Two major reasons can be identified for why they could strike a better nuclear deal in Geneva than they actually did. For one thing, President Rouhani’s and his team of negotiators’ liaison with the P5+1 group got off on the wrong foot: they showed their hand prematurely by approaching the negotiations with a sense of desperation and an attitude of eagerness to reach a deal.
Indeed, it is fair to argue that President Rouhani condemned Iran to an unsound or flawed deal long before he was elected. He did so during his presidential campaign by pinning his chances for election on economic recovery through a nuclear deal. This was a huge mistake, as it automatically weakened Iran’s bargaining position and, by the same token, strengthened that of the United States and its allies. By exaggerating (perhaps opportunistically) the culpability of his predecessor in the escalation of economic sanctions against Iran, he committed two blunders: one downplaying the culpability of the U.S. and its allies; the other (and by the same token) placing the onus of reaching a nuclear deal largely on Iran.
Secondly, whereas the U.S. and its junior partners constantly brandished the so-called “stick” of additional sanctions in the background of the Geneva negotiations to extract more concessions from Iran, the Iranian side does not seem to have effectively used its country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region to resist the one-sided concessions. While the United States and its allies have in recent months experienced a major setback over the Syrian crisis, Iran and its allies (Russia, Syria, Hezbollah and, indirectly and minimally, China) have by the same token experienced success. And while the results of the U.S. military adventures of the past dozen years or so have been chaos and civil war in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, Iran remains a relatively stable and an ascending regional power, indeed, a power-broker—sanctions-induced economic distress notwithstanding.
It is thus altogether reasonable to argue that had the Iranian negotiators (a) not gone to Geneva with such an openly eager attitude to reach a nuclear deal, and (b) taken more effective advantage of their country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region, they could have struck a better nuclear deal than they actually did. For example, while agreeing on the freezing of their nuclear technology was (under the circumstances) unavoidable, they could more strongly argue that there was no reason for them to roll back Iran’s scientific achievements from 20 percent enrichment of uranium to 5 percent—20 percent enrichment is both NPT-sanctioned, or legal, and required for the Tehran Research Reactor, which manufactures medical isotopes.
Likewise, while agreeing to more intrusive inspections of nuclear sites was (again, under the circumstances) inescapable, Iranian negotiators could reasonably resist allowing inspectors access to and monitoring of their country’s centrifuge assembly workshops, or its uranium mines and mills. Furthermore, the Iranian team could, again quite reasonably, insist on making the elements of the “final agreement,” which is supposed to remove all of the sanctions against Iran, more specific. As they now stand, these elements are so vague, fluid and inconsistent that they seem to be crafted in order to be broken.
Regime Change From Within
Ever since the 1979 revolution in Iran, which significantly undermined the U.S. influence in Iran and elsewhere in the region, the United States has been on a “regime change” mission in that country. Its efforts in pursuit of this nefarious goal are rather well established. They range from instigating and supporting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, to training and supporting destabilizing terrorist organizations to attack Iran, to constant war and military threats, to efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and to systematic escalation of economic sanctions.
Not only have these imperialistic schemes fallen short of their goal of “regime change” in Iran, they have, in fact, driven that country to become a major power in the region, which has further thwarted the geopolitical plans of the United States in the area. While the U.S.–supported mercenary forces in Syria as well as its allies in Ankara, Cairo and Riyadh have experienced serious setbacks in their efforts to overthrow the government in Damascus, the Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah alliance has (by the same token) gained strength and prestige in recent months.
Having thus failed at its plots for “regime change” in Iran from without, the U.S. (or more precisely, a major faction of its ruling powers) now seems to have opted for regime change (or reform) from within; that is, through political and economic rapprochement with Iran. Even some of the U.S. allies such as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that have always been wary of Iran’s radical influence in the region, and who initially opposed vehemently the Iran–P5+1 nuclear agreement, are beginning to see the “moderating” or “stabilizing” benefits of the success of this tactic.
What has made this option more promising (to the U.S. and its client regimes) is the rise of an ambitious capitalist class in Iran whose chief priority seems to be the ability to do business with their counterparts in the West. These folks literally mean business, so to speak; for them, issues such as nuclear technology or national sovereignty are of secondary importance. As mentioned earlier, they are the staunchest supporters of President Rouhani and the unquestioning supporters of his lopsided concessions in the nuclear deal. Also as mentioned before, it was the representative delegations of this class of Iranian capitalists that accompanied President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif to the United States and Europe in order to negotiate business/investment deals with their counterparts in the West.
To be sure, the jingoistic factions of the U.S. ruling circles, headed by the beneficiaries of war dividends and the Israeli lobby, continue to push for direct military intervention and/or further economic strangulation of Iran. But the leaders and/or beneficiaries of non-military industries such as oil, automobile, airlines, agriculture, and the like are lobbying the Obama administration for economic and political rapprochement with Iran.
Which of these two major factions of the U.S. ruling powers (Proponents of regime change from within or from without) would succeed, depends largely on the process and/or outcome of nuclear negotiations. While making threats of additional sanctions, the hardline or militaristic faction seem to be for now sitting on the fence: if Iran continues to make more one-sided concessions, which would basically mean giving up its right to a level of uranium enrichment that is necessary for its peaceful domestic needs, they would soften their positions and gradually lower their shrill and menacing voices. On the other hand, if Iran does not relent on its legal and legitimate enrichment rights, and insists that the U.S. and its allies need to reciprocate Iran’s interim concessions by lifting the sanctions, they would further harden their positions by calling for additional sanctions and/or military intervention. Under this latter scenario, proponents of rapprochement with Iran, having failed in their tactic of regime change/reform from within, would most probably join the hardliners, thereby embarking, once again, on the long-standing policy of regime change from without—back to square one, so to speak.
So, how would all of these new developments on both the Iranian and the U.S. side affect and/or be affected by the interim nuclear deal toward a “comprehensive final step”?
Problematic and Uncertain Future of the Interim Nuclear Deal
Components of the interim agreement are so vague, inconsistent and even contradictory that it makes them subject to divergent interpretations and, therefore, potential breaches of the deal in the future. This explains why soon after the agreement was signed conflicting understandings of it began to surface. While the Iranian president and his team of negotiators have frequently declared that the agreement acknowledges the country’s right to uranium enrichment, the U.S. side, headed by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, has vigorously denied that right.
Equally vague and (potentially) problematic is the meaning of the “elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution.” According to Iran’s negotiators, the “final step” would “Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions,” as it is, indeed, stipulated as such in the interim agreement. However, the agreement immediately adds that the final step would “Involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.” And it is this ambiguous and condition-laden (“mutually defined enrichment…, mutually agreed parameters…, agreed limits on scope…, for a period to be agreed upon”) sentence in the interim deal that is frequently highlighted by the United States as governing the status of the “final step.”
This is an indication, as pointed out by Gareth Porter (among others), “of uncertain U.S. commitment to the ‘end state’ agreement.” U.S. reservations or unfaithfulness toward a clear, comprehensive and sanctions-free final deal, Gareth further points out, “came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night [23 November 2013]. The officials repeatedly . . . referred to the negotiation of the ‘comprehensive solution’ outlined in the deal . . . as an open-ended question rather than an objective of U.S. policy”. It is this ambiguous, unsure and noncommittal U.S. approach to the nuclear deal that serves as grounds for the pessimistic conclusion that the deal is facing an uncertain future.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007) and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). His latest book, titled Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis: Parasitic Finance Capital, is forthcoming from Routledge Books.
Can Europe be trusted? Certainly, this is an important question on the mind of many Iranians, in light of the surprise news that a precious few days after signing the Geneva agreement on November 24th, the European Union (EU) imposed new sanctions on Iran, by targeting 17 Iranian shipping companies, decried by Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson as “illegal.”
Per the terms of the Geneva agreement, the “5 + 1” nations have agreed not to impose any new sanctions on Iran for the duration of this “interim agreement” that stipulates a six-months timeline for negotiating a final status agreement, subject to further extension by both sides’ consent.
It therefore comes as a shocking surprise to many people both inside and outside Iran that instead of moving to ease the sanctions, the most immediate European follow-up action has been the intensification of the Iran sanctions. There is no valid justification for this move, which clearly contradicts both the letter and the spirit of the Geneva agreement, reflecting instead a counter-productive and obstructionist tendency on the part of the European officials, who may be addicted to Iran-bashing and find it rather difficult to re-track themselves toward the unknown territory of “Iran detente.”
But, of course, the Geneva agreement is in Europe’s own interest, seeing how over the past 8 years the continent’s once thriving trade with Iran has languished, which can be resurrected as a result of good-faith diplomacy toward Iran in the weeks and months to come. Already, there are reports of various European auto and other companies embracing the positive development in Geneva and preparing themselves to re-engage with Iran, awaiting clear policy guidelines by the EU so that their present concerns regarding the prohibitions on doing business with Iran are fully addressed.
Henceforth, it is vitally important for the EU officials not to drag their feet on implementing the terms of the Geneva agreement; otherwise, some provisions such as those with respect to the easing of the sanctions affecting the European insurance companies would not be implemented in a timely fashion, thus resulting in a partial lack of the fulfillment of sanctions’ relief promised by the West.
Unfortunately, the history of Europe’s nuclear negotiations with Iran during the past decade leaves a lot to be desired, warranting a healthy Iranian skepticism. Case in point, exactly nine years ago, the EU3 (i.e. France, Germany, and England) signed an agreement with Iran, the so-called Paris Agreement in November 2004, that was hailed in the Western media as a “major breakthrough” and raised the expectation for an end to the Iranian nuclear standoff.
One key element of the Paris Agreement was, as this author pointed out in a New York Times report back then, its recognition of “Iran’s rights under the NPT standards… without discrimination.” Naturally, Iran fully expects the same willingness on the part of Western governments to acknowledge and respect Iran’s full nuclear rights including the right to possess a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle (via an indigenous uranium enrichment program), which was expressly mentioned in the Paris Agreement.
Sadly, as this author has fully documented in his book, Iran’s Nuclear Program: Debating Facts versus Fiction (2006), the Europeans ended up reneging on their promises in the Paris Agreement, by failing to provide the promised incentives and, worse, by reversing themselves on Iran’s enrichment rights under pressure by the US, which was opposed to this aspect of the agreement from the outset.
As a result, none of the “objective guarantees” regarding technical, nuclear, and other cooperation with Iran, as well as the promise of regional security cooperation, ever materialized, thus setting the stage for the agreement’s subsequent breakdown, fully blamed on Iran by the hypocritical European officials, who consistently failed to direct their criticisms at their own shortfalls.
This was interpreted as an example of bad-faith negotiation and “broken promises” by, among others, Iran’s envoy to the United Nations at the time, current Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a seminal article in Columbia University’s journal of international affairs.
In the light of the above-said, the important question is, of course, whether or not the Geneva agreement is destined to have the same fate as the Paris Agreement? Lest we forget, the West’s failure to accept blame for the breakdown of the Paris Agreement played a crucial role in the dispatching of Iran’s nuclear file to the UN Security Council and the subsequent imposition of several rounds of UN sanctions on Iran, despite the absence of any formal and proper finding of “non-compliance” by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Drawing lessons from the past, the history of incoherent and contradictory European behavior after signing the Paris Agreement mentioned above is a fresh reminder of the potential perils facing the Geneva agreement, which can easily derail it absent the political will on the part of EU officials and lawmakers to withstand the avalanche of anti-Iran pressure, some of which stems from certain governments in the region.
As a result, from Iran’s vantage point, the Western governments’ full compliance with the terms of the Geneva agreement is a must, which, as stated above, requires the issuance of new policy guidelines with respect to the easing of sanctions cited in the agreement.
Following the agreement, a joint commission consisting of officials from Iran and the “5 + 1” nations will be formed shortly to oversee the simultaneous implementation of the pledges made by both sides and to resolve any potential problems in this connection. Only then can full Iranian confidence in Europe’s good-faith negotiation be restored and the troubled Iran-EU relations gradually heal.
For now, however, the news of new EU sanctions in the aftermath of the Geneva agreement is simply a fresh log to the Iranian collective memory of past European behavior (of broken promises and reneged contracts), yet another reminder that the the continent’s policy-makers continue to be infected by the legacy of Euro-centric post-colonialism, requiring a cognitive leap forward, presently held at bay by the lingering distortions of what the late Edward Said aptly labeled as “Orientalism.”
With the EU policy on Iran clearly showing the traces of “Orientalism,” the path forward in Iran-EU relations must be explored on all levels, including at the normative and cognitive level, given the ‘cognitive dissonance’ of contradictory behavior toward Iran mentioned above.
Europe’s failure to resolve this problem will undoubtedly affect their level of commitment to their own pledges reflected in the Geneva agreement and thus set the stage for a policy vicious circle regarding Iran. It is time for Europe to break the spell of this vicious circle and demonstrate a collective evolution, following the norms of international affairs in showing respect and reciprocity to the nation of Iran, a cradle of world civilization.
The Spanish government has approved a new draft law which imposes harsh penalties on Spaniards taking part in unauthorized anti-government demonstrations, a move criticized by the opposition as trying to silence protests.
The draft law, presented by Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz on Friday, sets fines of up to 30,000 euros ($40,800) for offenses like torching the national flag, affronting the state or causing serious troubles outside parliament.
Fines of up to 1,000 euros will be imposed on people insulting or intimidating police officers.
Four “very serious” offenses, including interfering in electoral processes and illegal protests at strategic facilities such as airports or nuclear power plants, could be fined up to 600,000 euros (about $1,000,000).
The opposition says the bill is meant to prevent demonstrations against the government as the country struggles with a debt crisis and high unemployment.
“When more than 20 percent of people are unemployed, I don’t think this legislation is what we require,” said Alejandro Tourino, from law firm Ecija.
The government, however, has defended the bill, saying it will create discipline and safeguard public freedoms.
It will help “regulate and protect public freedoms,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.
Madrid’s harsh spending cuts and rising unemployment have sparked massive anti-government protests across the country in recent years. Protesters argue that the government-imposed measures have failed to curb rising poverty or help extricate the country from its worst recession in years.
The draft law must be approved by parliament, where it may change to some extent. However, it will probably be ratified as the governing party has an absolute majority in the parliament.
Spain has seen numerous protests in recent years. On November 20, students gathered in front of the Education Ministry in Madrid to show their anger at the government’s austerity cuts, rising fees and other changes to the education system.
The Spanish government has been sharply criticized over the austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.
On Thursday the Ukrainian parliament reject a final set of laws designed to pave the way for Ukraine to join the EU’s “Eastern Partnership” program as an associate EU member. The surprise move cast a shadow on the Eastern Partnership signing ceremony scheduled to take place in Vilnius, Lithuania next week.
With this move, Ukraine has signaled an end to its interest in further formal association with the European Union and a preference for participation in the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Perhaps sensing that a relationship with the EU would also involve endless meddling in internal Ukrainian affairs, the last straw for the Ukrainian parliament was a package of Brussels-demanded legislation which would have released from custody former prime minister Yulia “Gas Princess” Timoshenko, serving time on corruption charges.
The Western media marches nearly in lock-step condemning Russia’s role in “bullying” Ukraine into stepping away from the EU agreement. The Western media’s near-universal claim is that Ukraine is missing out on the deal of a century. But as usual there is far more to the story.
As European asset manager Eric Kraus points out, Ukraine opted for a reliable trading partner next door rather than an EU that is neither interested in importing Ukrainian products nor has the financial means to provide support for modernization of Ukraine’s economy. So despite deceptive and biased Western reporting, Ukraine has settled on guaranteed trade rather than empty suggestions of possible aid.
Western media and governments cannot understand why Ukraine would not drop everything to join the Western club, the EU, but as Kraus explains in the above-linked interview:
The EU offers lots of words…what they don’t offer is what Ukraine needs, which is money…. Ukraine is not vital to the EU. It is part of a geopolitical chess game and they’d like to take that piece. But they are not going to spend a lot of money for it. They can’t. They’ve got Portugal, they’ve got Greece, pretty soon they’ve got France.
As a recent RPI report pointed out in detail, Westernized politicians from the former East like Poland’s Radek Sikorski pretend that their countries have benefited from EU membership when in fact it is predominantly the elites in these countries — often with nomenklatura ties — who have done particularly well for themselves while their countries’ economies have disintegrated. Sikorski’s Poland, for example, “enjoys” a 30 percent youth unemployment rate and a population whose only hope for the future is emigration to the UK.
As RPI contributor Christine Stone points out in the above recent report:
Cheap labour and cut-price prostitution will be Ukraine’s major exports if the Polish or Baltic model of European integration is anything to go by. Poland’s main ‘export’ is cash remittances from almost three million migrants scattered across the western EU, especially in Britain. Maybe Foreign Minister Sikorski hopes that Ukraine will replace Poland as the mega-El Salvador of Europe if it accedes to a visa-free association with the EU?
With Ukraine out of the EU’s “Eastern Partnership” program, the association includes just Georgia and Moldova, both economic basket-cases that make even Ukraine look like Switzerland. Good luck with that, Brussels.
- Backtracking? Ukraine PM Says Could Sign EU Accord In 2014 (eurasiareview.com)
- EU and Ukraine: What went wrong? (euobserver.com)
- RT: Ukraine refused to ‘sign a suicide note’, sending the EU’s ‘geopolitical project’ onto the rocks (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
Unauthorized demonstrations near the Spanish Parliament could see participants being fined €600,000 ($810,000) under a new Citizen Security bill being introduced by Spain’s ruling rightist Popular Party, local media reported.
Under the legislation, which will likely soon be approved in parliament, “social uproar” leading to harassment or insults of officials is to be made a criminal offense. Masked disorderly conduct could also incur charges. The legislation will likely be drafted by the Cabinet next Friday.
Unsanctioned protests outside political offices will be outlawed, alongside disorderly conduct by people hindering any means of identification, while people offering sexual services in the vicinity of children’s play areas will also be made illegal, according to Spanish newspaper 20minutos.es.
Other offenses deemed serious are to include publishing images or personal data of policemen, interrupting public events, possession of illegal drugs, vandalism of public property and drinking alcohol in the street.
The fines will vary between €1,000 and €30,000 ($1350 – $40,000) for more minor offences. However, just insulting a policeman could see a citizen landed with a €30,000 fine.
“We’re not looking to punish [people] more, just to reduce the discretionary margin for illicit conduct and not stumble into judicial limbo for ‘new’ acts like the escraches,” Spain’s Huffington Post quoted the Interior Ministry as saying.
“Escraches,” a kind of demonstration popular in Spain and Latin America, where protesters lobby outside the homes or offices of officials, have escalated this year, most notably those staged by the Movement of Mortgage Victims. The group lobbied outside politicians’ homes to protest the repossession of homes.
The law will first have to pass through the commission of undersecretaries, then analyzed in the Council of Ministers, followed by a State Council opinion and the General Council of the Judiciary, before being sent back to be discussed as organic law in the courts.
Even as there have been indications around the globe that perhaps we’ve had enough copyright term extension and it’s time to move back in the other direction, over in the UK, they just put in place a big new copyright extension which increases the term from 50 years to 70 years for sound recordings and performers’ rights. We had discussed the EU decision two years ago to seize the public domain by retroactively pulling works out of the public domain, and now it’s officially gone into effect.
While we’ve pointed out for years that when people claim that infringing works are “stolen,” they’re using the wrong word, since nothing is missing, that is not the case here. Here, things are absolutely missing. The entire purpose of copyright law is to provide the incentives to have the work created in the first place. As such, it’s a deal, where the public grants the creators an exclusive right for a number of years, in return for getting the work (in a limited fashion) for a period of time and then having that work become public domain at the end. Retroactive copyright extension is a unilateral change in that deal — directly taking the work away from the public domain without any recompense to the public the work has been stolen from. This makes absolutely no sense. Clearly, since the work was created, the incentive was good enough at the time of creation. Adding on more years that the public doesn’t get it at the end does nothing to incentivize the work that was already created fifty years ago.
There is simply no reason to have done this, and to have taken these works out of the public domain. Scholars have pointed out that there is no legitimate reason to do this, no evidence that it does anything useful at all. Instead, there’s plenty of evidence that the cost to the public is tremendous — somewhere around a billion euros. The cost to culture in general is even worse, because the longer copyright terms are, the more works disappear entirely, and the more it harms the dissemination of knowledge. It’s basically a disaster all the way around — except for some old record labels that still have the copyrights.
- Why Are Reading Textbooks So Out-of-Date? Blame America’s Copyright Laws (theatlantic.com)
By Fiona de Londras, Durham University | November 6, 2013
Next month the advocate general of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), Yves Bot, will publish an opinion on the extent to which the Data Retention Directive, one of the most controversial security measures introduced by the EU in the past decade, is compatible with human rights law. Although not a binding judgement (this will come later), the CJEU’s opinion is a significant intervention in the ongoing debate over how to balance human rights with states’ perceived surveillance needs.
The security-related retention of communications by telecoms firms was on the European agenda well before 9/11, but privacy concerns had led to a limited approach. Telecoms companies in the EU were obliged to delete communications data as soon as all business needs had been met; the data could not be retained for security or criminal investigation purposes. Some states had attempted to adjust this and introduce a retention system in 2000, but this failed – again, largely because of privacy concerns. All this changed, however, after 9/11.
As early as May 2002, a “data retention amendment” had been made to existing EU privacy laws to allow for security-related data retention, and drafts of a provision that would require retention began to circulate. Those proposals attracted so much rights-based criticism that they were apparently abandoned; however, they quickly reappeared in the wake of the London and Madrid bombings, and in 2006, the Data Retention Directive was adopted.
It obliges all member states to introduce national data retention regimes, even where -— as in the UK —- there had already been significant resistance to such regimes when they were previously proposed at national level. The directive requires telecommunications providers to retain data on the source, destination, time, date, duration and type of all communications by fixed and mobile telephone, fax and internet, and on the location and type of equipment used.
The data is to be retained for between six month and two years, with national law deciding on the duration, and can be accessed by state agencies investigating “serious crime” —- a term that has different definitions across the member states.
The volume and extent of information retained under the directive is stunning; in effect, it has introduced a system of blanket surveillance across the entire EU. Although access to the information is regulated by law, state agencies can nonetheless access an enormous amount of information about our communications patterns and activities. This naturally raises serious human rights concerns, especially about privacy.
Security services insist that data retention is an indispensable tool for investigating serious crimes, such as terrorism and the production and distribution of child pornography. Yet different states make use of the Directive to wildly varying extents: in 2012, for example, Cyprus made 22 requests for access to data, while the UK made 725,467.
The question for the advocate general, the CJEU and the EU more broadly is whether or not the approach taken by the directive privileges perceived security needs over human rights. Data retention unquestionably constitutes a prima facie infringement on privacy; the real issue is whether this infringement is justified because it is necessary, effective, and limited. This question is at the core of all debates about “balance” in the security context: how far are we prepared to allow state power into our individual, family, social and democratic lives in order to “secure” us?
Answering this question requires us to decide on what we think “effectiveness” means in the context of security. If the directive helps to resolve a handful of serious crimes per year, or to prevent one terrorist attack, is it effective? Could a more limited approach -— such as requiring telecoms companies to collect data related to certain investigations but not to retain all data -— achieve the same security objectives while better protecting rights?
These are difficult questions, but they are ones we must resolve if we are to have a balanced security system. The advocate general’s opinion will be an important contribution to the debate, but it will not be the final word. Achieving a balanced approach to security requires critical scrutiny at practical, political, social and legal levels. This is all the more true given that, as the Data Retention Directive illustrates, security measures operate upon and have implications for the rights of all of us, all of the time.
Fiona de Londras is the Project Co-Ordinator of SECILE (Securing Europe through Counter-Terrorism: Impact, Legitimacy and Effectiveness), a project that has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 313195.
- Are YOU content for the EU & UK politicos to be party to every detail of your life? (ironiestoo.blogspot.com)
- Corporate interests dominate group working on EU data law (computerworld.co.nz)
- Dutch Telcos Used Customer Metadata, Retained To Fight Terrorism, For Everyday Marketing Purposes (techdirt.com)
- How to choose a VPN that actually protects your privacy – Abine (uwnthesis.wordpress.com)
A senior official from the European Union has visited Israel to inform the government that it will find a solution to ensure Israel’s participation in the scientific Horizon 2020 project, Haaretz newspaper has claimed. This is in spite of EU restrictions on dealing with Israeli companies and research centres operating in the illegal West Bank settlements which takes effect in January 2014. The EU ban on such dealings threatens to lose Israeli research centres around $200 million.
Europe-Israel discussions regarding Israel’s participation in the 2020 project stalled when the EU approved the economic restrictions on Israeli companies and research centres in the West Bank. The European guidelines dictate that any future agreement with Israel should make it clear that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights, are not part of Israel and therefore not covered by EU-Israel agreements. Since then, talks over Israel’s participation in Europe’s largest scientific project turned from a technical issue to a complex political matter, especially as a few Israeli research centres likely to join the project are active in the settlements.
According to Haaretz, Israel and the United States are exercising “tremendous pressure” on EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton to relax the new restrictions. Israel has also threatened that it will not join the European project if the restrictions remain in place. The newspaper said that Ashton was scheduled to deliver the draft project to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs two weeks ago with clarifications of the restrictions and the proposed agreement but decided to postpone the trip so that leaks could be avoided, which might damage the discussions.
“A high-level European delegation is scheduled to arrive in Israel next week,” said Haaretz, “headed by the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont, who will meet with senior officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Science.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel said that the latest bone of contention with the EU is the demand that Israeli companies wishing to take part in Horizon 2020 should state publicly that they are not active in the settlements and occupied Palestinian territories.
- EU commissioner pledges stronger co-operation with Israel (irishtimes.com)
- Tell your MEPs to support the new guidelines on Israel’s participation in EU programs (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Tension between EU and Israel over EU research funding (irishtimes.com)
- [Opinion] EU’s moment of truth on Israeli settlements (euobserver.com)
Members of the European Parliament (EP) have voted to suspend a security agreement with the United States, amid growing concerns over US spying activities against Europe.
“The EU should suspend its Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) agreement with the US in response to the US National Security Agency’s alleged tapping of EU citizens’ bank data held by the Belgian company SWIFT,” read a resolution passed by the EP on Wednesday by 280 votes to 254 and 30 abstentions.
While the resolution is non-binding, the EP stressed that it “will take account of the European Commission’s response to this demand when considering whether to give its consent to future international agreements.”
In 2010, the European Union and the United States agreed on the TFTP, which allowed the US limited access to the global financial database SWIFT as part of an anti-terrorism campaign.
The Wednesday vote came, however, after revelations by former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that the United States was using the access to spy on Europe instead of using it for counterterrorism purposes.
The European lawmakers also called on EU member states to launch an investigation into the reports on the US espionage involving SWIFT.
Revelations of massive spying operations by the United States have triggered condemnations across Europe and Latin America.
In a latest revelation, Snowden said Washington has spied on the phone conversations of German chancellor Angela Merkel. The disclosure prompted the German chancellor to call US President Barack Obama to seek reassurance that her phone calls were no more targeted by US spying.
On October 21, the French newspaper Le Monde disclosed massive surveillance by the US on French citizens and diplomats. The news angered French President Francois Hollande, who expressed “extreme reprobation” for the reported collection by the US of 70 million digital communications between December 10, 2012 and January 8, 2013.
As the second most populous former Soviet republic, Ukraine has seemed uncomfortable with its independence since 1991 and less than committed to making it work. The fundamental issue has always been, does the country remain entwined with its larger neighbour Russia, or does it succumb to the blandishments of the West and distance itself completely from a country with which it was co-joined for over 1000 years?
Within the USSR Ukraine was an economic power house with a large heavy industrial sector and flourishing agriculture based on its excellent ‘black soil’. To Western eyes, the typical Ukrainian was Nikita Khrushchev — a plump, jolly fellow; a bit crude, perhaps, but a good, stolid Soviet citizen. When Gorbachev arranged a referendum on preserving a reformed Soviet Union in March 1991, 76 percent of voters in Ukraine supported remaining in the USSR. Yet only eight months later 90 percent of them voted for independence. Some might say, how capricious! Could things have changed so quickly? They obviously did, meaning that the Communist apparatchiki jumped the sinking ship and the sheep followed.
Since then, the country has been ruled by a mixture of ex-Soviet officials and Komsomolski joined by a growing band of oligarchs, some who have grown rich from the oil and gas transportation business. Typical of this genre is Yulia Timoshenko, the former prime minister, now serving a prison sentence for embezzlement and therefore regarded as a saintly martyr by the EU oligarchs who regard ripping off the peasantry as far less of a sin than being imprisoned for it.
Making matters worse is the fact that Washington and its European allies have repeatedly involved themselves in Kiev’s dysfunctional politics for their own purposes not the country’s well-being. The country is a strategic linchpin mainly because of its Black Sea coast where the Russians still maintain an important military base in the Crimea, rented from Ukraine.
The Curse of Orange
In 2004, large sums of Western money were poured into Kiev to overturn the results of the country’s presidential election which had been won by Viktor Yanukovich, a mundane but competent bureaucrat from the more Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine. Fears were that he might be less amenable to the ‘reform agenda’ pushed by Brussels and Washington. For several weeks hordes of young people camped in a tent city in central Kiev alleging fraud and claiming that their chosen candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was the real winner of the poll. They were joined by members of the European Parliament and supported by the U.S. embassy mainly in the form of orange paraphernalia – scarves, flags, T-shirts – which gave the movement its name: the Orange Revolution. At the time, Western-sponsored, allegedly spontaneous ‘colour revolutions’ were all the rage in the former USSR.
By fair means (and certainly foul) the Oranges prevailed. A repeat election was held and Viktor Yushchenko – inevitably – was the winner. He became president and Mrs Timoshenko, also a heroine of the Orange Revolution, was appointed his prime minister. The youth melted away from Kiev now that the free food and drink, provided by the revolution’s western funders, had disappeared. But, soon, all was not well. Yushchenko and his prime minster fell out and she was dismissed a year later, in 2005.
The falling out inside the Orange camp was a symptom of the fractious and feuding nature of Ukraine’s post-Communist elite. The Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada) was another woeful example of institutional failure. Increasingly dominated by supporters of the defeated (or deposed) President Yanokovich, as the Orange factions fell out and lost support in fresh parliamentary elections, it was the scene of regular fisticuffs and brawls between different factions – all shown on television. Mrs Timoshenko’s supporters were usually the first to throw the punches. It seemed that the Orange team’s promise of Western-style, cutting edge politics was a forlorn dream.
In 2010 the reviled Yanukovich was elected president – again. Allegations of his 2004 election fraud were forgotten. The U.S. and its European friends had made little attempt to rescue their Orange protégées, still, the fear lurked that the new president would lurch perilously towards Moscow. But, surprisingly, his first post-election visit was to Brussels and he seemed keen to pursue closer ties with the EU. However, relations with Russia did improve and Yanukovich began to contemplate Ukraine’s possible participation in the Russian-Belarusian-Kazakh Customs Union, a rival organisation to the EU – certainly when it came to seducing former Soviet republics into the fold. It is at this point that the latest Ukrainian drama – potentially, its most consequential – begins to unfold.
Enter Salvation: the EU beckons
The European Union aware that its members were enlargement weary came up with the idea of a ‘Union Lite’ – the Eastern Partnership – to ease the remaining post-Soviet orphans into the club but, sort of, through the back door. Unveiled in 2009, the idea was heavily promoted by Poland, whose Foreign Minister, Radislav Sikorski, promised all sorts of free trade and other economic benefits to the six potential ‘partners’, including Ukraine – the main one being closer contact with the economic paradise inhabited by their neighbours, the Poles. In truth, any ‘economic benefits’ that did emerge would go to the West rather than the poverty-stricken ‘partners’ who would find that Brussels’ largesse was restricted to its cronies.
Like the rest of the bloc, Ukraine’s economy had suffered during the 1990s as its Soviet markets disappeared. Things began to improve during Leonid Kuchma’s presidency (and Yanukovich’s premiership). Although courted by the west, Kuchma did not completely shut down the country as required by the ‘Washington consensus’. In fact, with economic boom in places like China, Ukraine’s raw materials (iron and steel from the east) were in strong demand. The country’s agricultural base had survived and its farms were productive – unlike the Polish version in Sikorski’s Euro-paradise.
Immediately, things started to go wrong as the Orange team began their time in office by interfering in the gas transit arrangements with Russia. In early 2006, after much provocation, Moscow cut off gas supplies to the West through the Ukrainian pipeline system due to Kiev’s arrears of payment as well as its aberrant behaviour. Negotiations with Moscow followed, and fed up with the debts and messing around, the Russians started to charge the Ukrainians more for their domestic supplies of gas. This impacted the country’s energy-dependent, heavy industrial base which was about to be hit anyway by the economic collapse in 2008 which resulted in less global demand for iron and steel.
Despite a change of government in 2010 rather than cease trouble making and find a solution to disagreements with Moscow, it seems that the apparat in Kiev has decided to walk away and accept the West’s somewhat poisoned chalice. Even the apparently, Moscow-friendly Yanokovich. In August 2013, his government indicated that it would sign the partnership agreement in November 2013 during the forthcoming European summit in Lithuania (another lucky beneficiary of the European project).
Tug of War: Moscow Reacts
The Russians have reacted angrily, stating that Ukraine cannot be a member of both customs unions. Ukraine’s economy is heavily dependent on Russia which takes 35 percent of Ukrainian exports. As Vladimir Putin’s envoy Sergei Glazyev points out: “Millions of people working in the industrial sector, with which we cooperate and which has thousands of ties with Russia, want [Ukraine's accession to the Customs Union]. These are rocket constructors, shipbuilders, chemists, metallurgists, and especially farmers and producers of food, whose products are not in demand anywhere else except Russia,” Glazyev said in an interview published in the Russian-language Ukrainian newspaper Vesti.
If the agreement is finally signed, Moscow says it will impose tariffs on Ukrainian goods which are likely to be ‘dumped’ in Russia as Ukraine is flooded with imports from the EU. But, the Ukrainian elites aren’t worried by any of this. They yearn to belong to the Euro club with its juicy perks and prospects for further self-enrichment. As Glazyev noted: “Numerous political scientists and experts, who have fed on European and American grants for 20 years … are doing a certain political job on their clients’ behalf. In addition, a whole generation of diplomats and bureaucrats has appeared after the years of the ‘orange’ hysteria, who are carrying out an anti-Russian agenda”.
Having embraced several economic basket-cases (including the over-hyped Poland) since 2004, what is in the deal for Europe? Yes, they can flood Ukraine with food and drink (thus destroying the country’s still productive agricultural base) and they can – for a price – plaster the country with European super and hyper markets. For Tesco, Aldi & co. a population of 48 million is virgin territory – a boost for Tesco whose eastern European outlets have lost money in the last few years. Otherwise, after 22 years of ‘freedom’ there is precious little left for the much vaunted ‘strategic foreign investor’ to gobble up.
Cheap labour and cut-price prostitution will be Ukraine’s major exports if the Polish or Baltic model of European integration is anything to go by. Poland’s main ‘export’ is cash remittances from almost three million migrants scattered across the western EU, especially in Britain. Maybe Foreign Minister Sikorski hopes that Ukraine will replace Poland as the mega-El Salvador of Europe if it accedes to a visa-free association with the EU?
For Ukraine’s future, the immediate and most troubling issue is energy: the country is haunted by its fragile status as a transit route to Western Europe and its own parlous ability to pay the world market price for fuel .
In 2010 a joint Russian-German pipeline began to carry Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic sea. Moscow’s decision to redirect energy exports to the west had been driven by ongoing problems with the Ukrainian route, mainly caused by the Orange politicians (and encouraged by the west). By 2013 Ukraine’s revenues for transporting Russian gas to Europe had nearly halved. Meanwhile, under pressure to ‘distance’ themselves from their evil neighbour, in 2012 Ukraine started to import some gas (at subsidised prices) from Germany’s Ruhrgas. Presumably, this was Russian gas going on a rather roundabout journey but, for good, geopolitical reasons.
Ukraine: an economic basket case?
However, the much promoted energy independence might be achieved – at least, sometime in the future. In 2013, with hubris at fever pitch, various regions in Ukraine began signing contracts with companies like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell for shale gas exploration. Initial tests have indicated large deposits around the country. Perhaps, finally, the Ukrainians would be free from Russian imports, although exactly when is unknown (2050 is one date bandied about). And, will the domestic customer benefit from lower prices, especially when the profits will go to Chevron & co.? None of this concerns the greedy mix of energy companies and Ukrainian politicos, noses already in the trough and snouts sniffing for more kickbacks.
But, maybe the Europeans have failed to take note of some of the risky business practises encountered by Western investors in Ukraine. According to the Financial Times “Swissport, for example, claims to have spent much of this year struggling to reverse a court ruling that stripped it of a 70 per cent stake in Ukraine’s largest air cargo handler. It won a victory in Ukraine’s highest commercial court on October 2, but could face further legal challenges. London & Regional Properties recently lost management control over Globus one of Ukraine’s top shopping malls. Even McDonalds has been caught up. The fast food giant claims that raiders are trying to seize ownership of one of its 75 local restaurants. Other investors whose assets have faced legal threats in Ukraine steelmaker ArcelorMittal , the biggest foreign investor in the country.
Sometimes, pressures appear to be applied by state law enforcement itself. In two separate incidents last month, fraud investigators raided and temporarily paralysed the local subsidiary of Italy’s Unicredit bank; at Vitmark Ukraine, a juice manufacturer owned by private equity fund Horizon Capital, documents, computers and other items were seized.
On top of this, Ukraine is in debt and, again, poised to go cap in hand to the IMF for further loans. At the end of September the cost of insuring 3-year Ukrainian debt hit a three year high. Among emerging markets, the country has one of the biggest burdens of short-term external debt relative to foreign exchange reserves. Its reserves fell by about 30 per cent to less than $20bn in the year to the end of August. According to Moody’s, this provides 2.3 months’ import coverage. The ratings agency said in its downgrade note”.
Bizarre, then, that while he was in Germany in May 2013, President Yanukovich boasted that the Partnership Agreement “will have a substantial positive influence on the European economic situation and will help Europe emerge from the crisis”. As one commentator pointed out “even without any trade liberalization Ukraine is buying more and more German goods, but it essentially has nothing to export there. Under these circumstances, offering itself as the “saviour of Europe” is a bit presumptuous”. Germany isn’t going to promote anything in Ukraine that might smack of competition (in heavy industry, for example). Instead various ‘green’ projects were floated around at the May meeting.
So, Ukraine is broke; its goods are of an inferior quality and unlikely to appeal to the European consumer; its business practices (including their legal underpinning) are dubious. Why bring the EU closer to such a place when over twenty years of western involvement has not led to any improvement? The answer, as everyone really knows, is political. This is the first really promising opportunity to drag Ukraine away from Russia, a country with which is shares a long border, a common language and historical experience as well as family and religious ties. But, the hatred felt in the west for Mr. Putin has only intensified with his intervention to stop an attack on Syria. Sealing Ukraine’s ties with Europe are a good way of giving him a bloody nose.
The deal still needs to be finalised and this seems to pivot upon Yanukovich agreeing to Brussels’ demand that Yulia Timoshenko, jailed in 2011 for embezzlement and abuse of office, be freed. The Europeans see her plight as a human rights tragedy almost on a par with Nelson Mandela’s incarceration on Robben Island, ignoring the fact that this is the second time she has been imprisoned for economic crimes – in 1994 she was convicted of money laundering and extortion. Many Ukrainians find this sanctification hard to take. They are more likely to accept Matthew Brzezinski’s description of her modus operandi as the ‘gas princess’ in his book Casino Moscow. The incarceration of a rich and powerful lady with a shady past is what seems to separate the Ukrainians from economic nirvana in the EU’s embrace.
As of this writing, Timoshenko’s release looks to be imminent, as Yanukovich has indicated his support for parliamentary action to allow her to be released from prison and sent to Germany, ostensibly for medical treatment.
Why does all this matter? Several basket cases have been absorbed into the EU already but with many negative repercussions, never mentioned by politicians like Sikorski. As people in former Soviet Bloc countries have fled the poverty resulting from membership of the EU, Ukrainians will also flee to western Europe once the ‘free trade’ rules kick in and visa rules are liberalised. How much more migrant labour can countries like Britain support? The Russians seem to be much angrier by Ukraine’s European aspirations than they were when the Baltic States joined NATO and EU. At the recent Yalta Conference where old globalist hands like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton urged Ukraine forward to the promised land, Putin’s envoy, Glazyev (also present) warned that signing the pact – rather than entering a Russian customs union – could tip Ukraine into default.
If the EU’s embrace of Ukraine precipitates a crisis in the debt-laden country with its currency worthless and Russia breathing down its neck, won’t Brussels feel obliged to ‘rush forward’ to save Ukraine by offering immediate entry into the EU? In the past, admission to NATO has preceded EU accession in ex-Communist countries. But when Ukrainians have been polled on joining an anti-Russian alliance, with them in the front-line, they have rejected the idea. So now the double-headed Western political monolith in Brussels is pushing EU accession first, to be followed by membership of NATO down the road.
With its shaky economy and political turmoil in several EU and euro member states, is this what the European Union really needs? With Russia now showing a more robust approach to what it sees as its ‘national interest’ who knows whether what seems on the surface to be an economic spat could lead to something deadlier. The EU’s claim to be a stabilising force for peace on the European continent looks set to collide with its geo-political ambition to do down the Russian state regardless of the costs to ordinary people inside the EU, Ukraine and Russia itself.
 “Putin’s aide calls opinion that all Ukrainians want European integration “sick self-delusion”” Interfax, 21st August, 2013 http://www.interfax.co.uk/ukraine-news/putins-aide-calls-opinion-that-all-ukrainians-want-european-integration-sick-self-delusion-2/
Roman Olyarchik: “EU beckons but investors still getting a rough ride” Beyond Brics Blog, Financial Times, 3rd October, 2013 http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/10/03/ukraine-eu-beckons-but-investors-still-getting-a-rough-ride/#ixzz2gfuGquIJ
 Luke Smolinski “Ukraine:investors get nervous” Beyond Brics Blog, Financial Times, 26th September, 2013http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/09/26/ukraine-investors-get-nervous/#ixzz2gfuSIfSP
 Natalya Meden, “What Lies Behind the Idea of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement” Strategic Culture Foundation, 26th June, 2013 http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2013/06/26/what-lies-behind-idea-eu-ukraine-association-agreement.html
 For, Matthew Brzezinski on Timoshenko, see for example: “City reaps benefits of native sons. Dnepropetrovsk is home to 220 national politicians. That is too cozy — and too influential — a relationship to suit many Ukrainians.” Wall Street Journal, 28th February, 1997
Christine Stone is a UK-based lawyer and journalist. She was Director of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group. She is the author most recently (with RPI Academic Advisor Mark Almond) of Post-Communist Georgia: A Short History.
Palestine is being disappeared
Two recent images encapsulate the message behind the dry statistics of last week’s report by the World Bank on the state of the Palestinian economy.
The first is a poster from the campaigning group Visualising Palestine that shows a photoshopped image of Central Park, eerily naked. Amid New York’s skyscrapers, the park has been sheared of its trees by bulldozers. A caption reveals that since the occupation began in 1967, Israel has uprooted 800,000 olive trees belonging to Palestinians, enough to fill 33 Central Parks.
The second, a photograph widely published last month in Israel, is of a French diplomat lying on her back in the dirt, staring up at Israeli soldiers surrounding her, their guns pointing down towards her. Marion Castaing had been mistreated when she and a small group of fellow diplomats tried to deliver emergency aid, including tents, to Palestinian farmers whose homes had just been razed.
The demolitions were part of long-running efforts by Israel to clear Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley, the agricultural heartland of a future Palestinian state. Ms Castaing’s defiance resulted in her being quietly packed off back to Europe, as French officials sought to avoid a confrontation with Israel.
The World Bank report is a way of stating discreetly what Castaing and other diplomats hoped to highlight more directly: that Israel is gradually whittling away the foundations on which the Palestinians can build an independent economic life and a viable state.
This report follows a long line of warnings in recent years from international bodies on the dire economic situation facing Palestinians. But, significantly, the World Bank has homed in on the key battleground for an international community still harbouring the forlorn hope that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will end in Palestinian statehood.
The report’s focus is on the nearly two-thirds of the West Bank, known as Area C, that is exclusively under Israeli control and in which Israel has implanted more than 200 settlements to grab Palestinian land and resources.
The World Bank report should be seen as a companion piece to the surprise decision of the European Union in the summer to exclude entities associated with the settlements from EU funding.
Both in turn reflect mounting frustration in European capitals and elsewhere at Israeli intransigence and seeming US impotence. Europeans, in particular, are exasperated at their continuing role effectively subsidising through aid an Israeli occupation with no end in sight.
With Israel and the Palestinians forced back to the negotiating table since July, and after the US secretary of state, John Kerry, warned that this was the “last chance” for a deal, the international community is desperate to exercise whatever small leverage it has on Israel and the US to secure a Palestinian state.
The World Bank’s concern about Area C is justified. This is the location of almost all the resources a Palestinian state will need to exploit: undeveloped land for future construction; arable land and water springs to grow crops; quarries to mine stone and the Dead Sea to extract minerals; and archaeological sites to attract tourism.
With access to these resources, the Palestinian Authority could generate an extra income of $3.4 billion a year, increasing its GDP by a third, reducing a ballooning deficit, cutting unemployment rates that have reached 23 per cent, easing poverty and food insecurity and helping the fledgling state break free of aid dependency. But none of this can be achieved while Israel maintains its chokehold on Area C in violation of the 1993 Oslo accords.
Israel has entrenched its rule in Area C precisely because of its wealth of natural resources. Israel neither wants the Palestinians to gain the assets with which to build a state nor intends to lose the many material benefits it has accrued for itself and the settler population in Area C.
It is its treatment of Area C that gives the lie to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that he has been pursuing “economic peace” with the Palestinians in lieu of progress on the diplomatic front. Rather, the Palestinian description of Israeli policy as “economic warfare” is much nearer the mark. During the Oslo period, the disparity between Israel’s per capita GDP and that of the Palestinians has doubled, to $30,000. And the World Bank says that the Palestinian economy is rapidly shrinking: the 11 per cent growth that Netanyahu took credit for in 2011 has crashed to 1.9 per cent in the first six months of this year. In the West Bank, GDP has actually contracted, by 0.1 per cent.
Despite its resources, Area C is being starved of Palestinian funds. Investors are averse to dealing with Israeli military authorities who invariably deny them development permits and severely restrict movement. The image of the French diplomat in the dirt is one that symbolises their own likely treatment if they confront Israel in Area C. Palestinian farmers, meanwhile, cannot grow profitable crops with the miserly water rations Israel allots them from their own aquifers.
Aware of the many obstacles to developing Area C, Palestinian officials have simply neglected it, concentrating instead on the densely populated and resource-poor third of the West Bank under their full or partial control.
The hope was that this would change when Kerry announced in the run-up to the renewed talks a plan to encourage private investors to pour in $4 billion to develop the Palestinian economy. But the reality, as the report notes, is that there can be no serious investment in the economic heartland of Area C until Israel’s control ends.
In effect, the World Bank is saying that Kerry’s plan – and the role of the international community’s envoy Tony Blair, the so-called Quatet Representative – is not only misguided, it is positively delusional. The Quartet has been trying to revive the Palestinian economy to usher in the conditions for statehood; the World Bank’s view is that there can be no Palestinian state, let alone economic revival, until Israel is forced out of the territories. The international community has it all back to front.
The idea that a financial lifeline – whether Kerry’s plan or Netanyahu’s economic peace – is going to smooth the path to the conflict’s end is an illusion. Peace, and prosperity, will come only when Palestinians are liberated from Israeli control.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel.