Sarko’s In, But Where are the Votes?

Nicolas Sarkozy has been “elected” as the UMP’s presidential candidate. Why the scarequotes? Well, “elected” usually implies a contest between more than one candidate. And Sarkozy was faced with only one contestant-the Apathy ticket.

Over Christmas, he successfully neutralised most of the possible internecine threats, bringing essentially all the serious rightwing politicians on board. The key to this was his recruitment of former Prime Minister (and convicted criminal) Alain Juppé, who was parachuted into a parliamentary seat back into Bordeaux town hall in the autumn, possibly in the hope he would run against Sarkozy.

But Juppé has signed up with Sarko, almost certainly in exchange for a promise that he will return to the prime minister’s office if the Right wins the election. Defence Minister Michéle Alliot-Marie, meanwhile, saw her campaign fail to get off the ground in a meaningful fashion. That left only Sarko to face an uncontested election. You might have expected a North Korean majority of 90+ per cent, but it didn’t happen. Only 69 per cent of those eligible to vote picked Sarkozy over the apathy ticket.

Before that, though, there had already been some other interesting developments..
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Wow, was I wrong

It’s just three weeks since I wrote this entry about the prospects for EU expansion in the Western Balkans. And in that short time, several of my predictions have been proven wrong.

— Croatia’s has been allowed to start negotiations for candidacy.

— Serbia has been allowed to start negotiations for a Stabilization and Association Pact.

— And, most unexpectedly of all, Bosnia has also been allowed to start SAA negotiations.

I titled that entry “Slowed or Stalled?” It turns out the answer was, “Neither! Damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead!”
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Two for the price of – what?

Hi folks,

It’s Brussels Gonzo, back again – this time as a full member of the team (thank you, David and colleagues). And since my first entry as a guest blogger dealt with Croatia’s membership application, and a later one described the unedifying scenes in the European parliament after their talks failed to start in March, it seems appropriate that my first entry as a regular FoE-er should talk about the linkage between yesterday’s two crucial decisions to start membership talks with Croatia and Turkey. (I hope this doesn’t too much repeat Tobias on the same subject yesterday.)
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Slowed or stalled?

Taking a break from the German elections, I ran across this recent article over at Radio Free Europe. Short version: EU accession for the Western Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania) is stalling.

All of these five states would like to be part of the EU, but — with the partial exception of Croatia — none of them are particularly welcome. The EU appears to be going through a period of “accession fatigue” in general. The “No” votes in France and the Netherlands, though not directed specifically at these countries, have definitely created an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty.

Furthermore, many of the countries of the Western Balkans are — there’s no way to be polite about this — unpopular. A recent Eurobarometer poll shows that more people oppose membership for Bosnia (43%) than support it. Only 40% of Europeans support EU membership for Serbia, while 44% oppose it. And for Albania, those numbers are a depressing 36% for, 50% against.

Obviously this could change over time. Again with the exception of Croatia, all of these countries are at least a decade away from membership. So opinions might shift. Still, the poll numbers suggest that there’s not much popular support within the EU for even starting the process.

Looking at the potential members one by one, below the flip.
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Austria Would Prefer Not To

Earlier this year, Eurobarometer started asking members what they thought about future EU expansion. The results (which can be found here, as a pdf) were pretty interesting.

52% of Europeans support membership for Croatia, while only 34% oppose it. (War criminals? What war criminals?) And 50% support membership for Bulgaria. But only 45% support Romania coming in. Which is a bit embarrassing, given that the EU has already firmly committed to Romanian membership, even if it might be delayed for a year.

Still, the Romanians can take comfort; they’re well ahead of Serbia (40%), Albania (36%) and Turkey (dead last, with 35% of Europeans supporting Turkish membership and 52% against).

Where this gets interesting — in a Eurovision-y sort of way — is when you start to break it down by country.
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The Case Of Orhan Pamuk

While EU foreign ministers are tucked nicely away in Newport (my paternal grandmother was born there) for their ?Gymnich? summit at which trying to get Turkey accession negotiations off the ground on October 3 will be one of the top priorities, and while MEPs pass the buck to the Commission and the Council on the thorny problem of Turkey’s interpretation of a customs agreement, back in Turkey itself best selling author Orhan Pamuk has been charged by a public prosecutor for “denigrating” the nation in comments about Turkish history which appeared in a Swiss newspaper several few months ago. And what did the comments refer to: the Armenian genocide, about which, of course, Turkey is still in denial. Randy McDonald has the story:

Myself, I’m on the record as believing that the Turkish refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide is rooted in Turkish insecurities dating back to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, when it seemed quite possible that Turks might lose a viable homeland. This is understandable even if it’s still repellent; this can be worked around.”

“The prosecution of Pamuk, however, is, besides being a crime in itself, a spectacular mistake. A country that prosecutes one of its most famous writers because he agreed with the historical consensus that, yes, there was an Armenian genocide really doesn’t strike me as the sort of country capable of living up to the requirements of European Union membership. I very much doubt that a European electorate already predisposed to reject the idea of Turkish membership in the EU will be more generous than me. Tell me, please, how exactly “Turkish identity” is compromised by the recognition that a previous Turkish state committed genocide? Denial’s one possible explanation, but it’s not a sufficient explanation.”

“For the time being, all I’ll say is that Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian genocide in some form should be a prerequisite for Turkish membership in the European Union. I wish Pamuk well in his upcoming court case–hopefully that will change something in his homeland.

Let me just second Randy here: recognition of the Armenian genocide should be a prerequisite.

Not So Trivial Pursuits

[The observant among you may have noticed that two earlier post-ettes have suddenly disappeared. The even more observant will have noted that they are now over at our sister blog – A Few Euros More – where they should have gone in the first place. I’ve picked up some bug or other and am a little groggy today, I hope it doesn’t show up too much in my argument :).]

Now, yesterday I focused on some relatively trivial examples of inflexibility on the part of the Commission, decisions I argued that did not really serve the interests on the Union itself. Today I have two more to add to the list (one in this post and one in the next), but these have a rather greater import.

Firstly there is the question of formally opening negotiations with Turkey, negotiations over an accession which would take place ten years from now at the earliest. However in recent days it has become evident, to say the least, that not everyone is happy with the conditions as already laid down for the start of negotiations with Turkey.
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Hungary: New President & Debt Downgrade

This week Hungary has a new President. The election of Laszlo Solyom as Hungary’s new President was a major setback for the governing Socialist Party (MSZP), at the same time as it was widely lauded as a victory by the right wing opposition Fidesz party. The outcome was largely the result of the behaviour of the MSZP?s junior coalition partner, the liberal leaning Free Democrats, who abstained. Katalin Szili, the MSZP choice, was regarded by Free Democrats as being far too involved with the MSZP. Only 3 votes separated the two candidates, and this reflects the current balance within the Hungarian parliament between Fidesz and MSZP ? a handful of independents and the Free Democrats in fact have the deciding votes.
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People Get Ready

Laura Rozen thinks that the broadcast of a graphic video from the massacre at Srebrenica may mark a tipping point in Serbian public opinion and pave the way for the arrest of Ratko Mladic and his extradition to The Hague.

She quotes an international justice listserv:

B92’s Danijel Bukomirovic, speaking in Dutch on NOS Journaal at 20:00 CET, suggested between the lines the Serbian government had had a hand in the surfacing of the ‘executions tape.’ The dire economic needs of the country make EU accession talks the only option for a better future, but oppositon amongst a majority of the poulation against the ICTY’s demands for the extradition of indicted war criminals stands in the way. A mood swing amongst a public in denial of the Srebrenica massacres would pave the way towards the extradition of Ratko Mladic…

This is part of what’s at stake with EU enlargement, and indirectly with the constitutional treaty.
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