Bloggers for Bronislaw

It is simply intolerable that a EU member state’s government should try to dismiss an MEP elected by the people. I think everyone can agree on that, right? It’s for the public to decide who should represent them. It’s for the member states as a whole to decide on the overall organisation of the EU. It’s for the European Parliament to decide on its own rules of procedure.

Not if you’re Poland’s comedy prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczyinski, who wants everybody to sign a statement that they are not, have never been, and never will be a Communist. Never mind that Poland already did this in 1998. Never mind that this includes everyone who had a position of responsibility up to 1989. Never mind that the Polish president until a couple of years ago was a former commie, and the hens didn’t stop laying.

As Major Major in Catch 22 says, the thing is to catch them before they know what allegiance is and keep’em pledging. Bronislaw Geremek and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, veterans of Solidarity’s intellectual side and the first post-communist government both, have refused to sign the pledge on principle, and now the Kaczyinskis are trying to end their mandates.

I wasn’t aware that an MEP was responsible to his or her home government – in fact I’m pretty sure they aren’t, and I’m meant to be an EU specialist. Even Maggie Thatcher was unable to browbeat the British commissioner, or for that matter the MEPs. This is profoundly anti-democratic, and worse, anti-constitutional – it’s an exercise in rule by whim, and if the EU is anything, it’s a community committed to constitutionalism.

Depressingly, looking up Tim Garton-Ash’s 1990s essays, I find reams of stuff on “lustration”, aka sacking people you don’t like, which all seems to come to the conclusion that it was risky, but fortunately it’s all over and Poland is a normal country. News: it’s not anywhere near as normal as we hoped. Sadly, the opinion-current behind the current government is the same that was calling the ex-communists and most of the dissidents by the same horrible name in 1991 – “zydokommuna” or “Jewishcommunists”. Nice friends you got there.

I’d like to see a blog storm about this.

Bloodthirsty Slavs vs. Racist, Revisionist Italians

Actually, it’s racist, revisionist, and revanchist Italians. But we’ll get to that.

Short version: Italy and Croatia have just had a brief but bitter diplomatic dispute over statements made by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Croatian President Stipe Mesic. There’s not really a good or bad side here, either; both nations seem to have had a short but violent attack of what my grandmother used to call “the stupids”.

On the plus side, it seems to be over now, and cooler heads have prevailed.

Much more below, if you’re interested.
Continue reading

What now, then?

So, the French Socialists have made their decision. The questions are, then, what the ones who made the wrong decision will do, and how the Right reacts. Everyone within the PS is already being very responsible and congratulating each other – DSK says the party is already united, and that he is at the new leader’s disposition, and even Laurent Fabius is making conciliatory noises, although he does want a “sign of her anchorage in the Left”. (Does that mean a cabinet post, or am I too cynical? With Fabius it’s hard to be.)

The realities are clear. For prestige reasons everyone will stand in the first round, which means that there is a wealth of options for disgruntled socialists. Traditionally, these votes will troop back to the PS in the run-off, but this is of course only of interest if they get into the run-off. As there is likely to be a strong extreme-left challenge, the ffirst priority for Royal is to mobilise the base in order to deliver the 25 per cent plus of the vote needed to reach the run-off.

The Communists and the extreme-left have been struggling to find common ground ever since what they perceive to be their triumphs over the European Constitution and the CPE. This week saw their third “national antiliberal meeting”. As is traditional, they agree on very little, and the Communists naturally believe they ought to be in charge. The Trotskyists, naturally enough, suspect that the Communists are trying to nick their votes through something like the classic united front strategy. Their long-standing candidate, Marie-George Buffet, was recently re-elected by a genuinely communist 96 per cent, and is now banging the drum for “orphan socialists” to join her collectif antilibérale. Meant are the supporters of Laurent Fabius, some 18 per cent of the membership. José Bové, meanwhile, who until a while ago was touted as a far-left unity candidate, accused Royal of Blairism, which we’ve said before is bound to be the meaningless word of the campaign.
Continue reading

Spy kids

Huge flap in Romania this week, as it’s been revealed that the Communist-era secret police recruited children to spy on parents and classmates.

This should come as no surprise. Nicolae Ceaucescu was a creepy little thug, and his Securitate were the scum of the earth. If you can think of a sleazy, evil activity, there’s a good chance Old Nic was into it. Assassinating troublesome Romanians abroad? Absolutely. Torture? Dude, they had training courses. Rewriting history, complete with forged photographs? They had a building full of people for that. You can argue whether Ceausescu was a “Stalinist” or not, but his regime knew all the tricks, and used them.

So, of course they had kids spying on their parents. For everything from Mom’s habit of listening to foreign radio stations to Dad’s jokes about the Ceausescus. While people may not have known this, exactly, it’s not something that should come as a shock.

So why the fuss?
Continue reading

Changing Colors

The CDU in Baden-Wuerttemberg is conducting negotiations with the Greens in that state to decide if the two parties should form a coalition government. If they do, it will be the first “black-green” coalition at the state level, and another sign of fluidity in Germany’s post-reunification party politics.

Update: Maybe next time. The CDU and FDP will, according to reports today, continue the coalition that has run the southwest for the last 10 years. Germany changes slowly.
Continue reading

A Brief Note…

from our internal discussions. I recently remarked to Edward that for much of the US government’s foreign policy apparatus, Russia is still Not Europe. This view is a legacy (still) of the Cold War period in which most of the decision-makers and working-level staff were trained and gained experience. It shapes basic reflexes toward Europe and the post-Soviet space, and knowing the background may at some level help outsiders understand this or that about official US approaches. (There are of course many levels of complexity, not least Congressional politics, commercial interests and ethnically based politicking, but this is meant to be a brief note.)
Continue reading

Petrol, Petrom, and the President

So, President Basescu is unhappy.

This is not unusual. President Basescu is often unhappy. You’d think that, having won the election last December against Prime Minister Nastase, he’d be at least content. But Basescu is a scrapper, and he’s always looking for a fight, and in recent weeks he’s found one. It’s about petrol, and Petrom.

Perhaps I should explain.
Continue reading

A curious trend in the Balkans

2000-2004: Under the rule of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Romania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Romania’s GDP increases by an average of nearly 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Romania joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

December 2004: voters reject Nastase and PSD, voting in the opposition in a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the National Movement Simeon II (NDST) and Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburgotski, Bulgaria enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Bulgaria’s GDP increases by an average of around 5% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Bulgaria joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

June 2005: Voters reject Saxecoburgotski and NDST, voting in the opposition, which now appears likely to form a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the Socialist Party and Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Albania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Albania’s GDP increases by an average of about 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Albania is accepted into the Partnership for Peace and moves from being an impoverished semi-pariah to a serious candidate for EU accession sometime in the next decade.

July 2005: Voters reject Nano and the Socialists, returning to former President Sali Berisha, out of office since 1997. Berisha will form a coalition government with several minor parties.

What’s going on here?
Continue reading

Elections in Albania (I)

So Albania is having a general election. The voters will go to the polls on July 4, in a little over three weeks.

The Albanian electoral system is rather interesting IMO. The Parliament has 140 members. 100 members are elected in “zones”, one-member districts with a first-past-the-post system, rather like Britain. But 40 members are elected at large, using party lists. All the parties that get more than 2.5% of the vote will divide these 40 seats among them, proportionately.

I don’t know anyone else who uses this mixed system, though I’m sure it can’t be unique to Albania.
Continue reading

Halfway There

This spring, the German newspaper whose web site isn?t quite as bad as another?s began publishing a series of 50 Great Novels from the Twentieth Century. It?s an admirable project in many ways — not least a cover price of EUR 4.90 per hardback. Thirty-seven books have been published so far, and I?ve now read about half of the whole list. Which is as good a point as any for taking stock.

I haven?t quite read 25 of the 50, but let?s face it, with Deutschstunde (German Hour, Siegfried Lenz, no. 28) clocking in at nearly 800 pages, and hefty volumes such as Jorge Semprun?s What a Beautiful Sunday! (Was f?r einen sch?nen Sonntag, no. 17) and Juan C. Onetti?s The Short Life (Das kurze Leben, no. 11), it?s going to be quite a while before I manage all of them.
Continue reading