Not talking yet: but a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war between those two countries is edging closer.
Peace talks between Ukraine and Russia will shift onto subjects of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” after apparent agreement was reached over membership of Nato and nuclear weapons.
It seems the talks will focus on the future of the breakaway Donbas region and ownership of the Crimean peninsula.
According to Sky News,
Russia has claimed its main focus has shifted to taking control of the eastern Donbas region, an apparent pullback from its initial more ambitious goals, but one which is raising fears of a divided Ukraine.
This Writer still cannot see Ukraine accepting that in any way. A split Donbas region won’t solve the problems there.
A better alternative would be to hold referenda among the people there, allowing them to decide whether to be Ukrainian, Russian or independent.
And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy isn’t averse to referenda; he has signalled willingness to ask his people whether to declare neutrality and stay out of Nato, in a significant step forward towards peace.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Warmonger Keir: but as you can see from the look on his face, he doesn’t have much of a clue.
Keir Starmer was waxing muscular about Ukrainian sovereignty in Prime Minister’s Questions, after Russia invaded parts of the eastern European country.
See and hear for yourself:
He’s right that a sovereign nation has been invaded.
But he’s not in a position to criticise Russia for doing so.
Because he fully supports the occupation of sovereign nations.
So the question is: why is Starmer so keen to take up arms against Russia over Ukraine when he is perfectly happy to allow other occupations to continue?
And if you don’t know what I mean, allow me to explain with just one word:
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Brexit supporters have been shown up properly over the last few days – and, to add insult to indignity, by Belgium!
After years of telling us that the EU denies member states their sovereignty, the lie has been revealed by three Belgian regions, which have asserted their sovereignty to stop the corporation-pleasing trade deal known as CETA in its tracks.
So the Brexiters, who have spent years telling us trade deals like CETA and TTIP are bad because they deny our national sovereignty, have turned on the spot and are now saying the EU is crazy to allow these regions to overturn a great deal.
They have to do this, in order to maintain their misconception that the EU denies sovereignty to nation states.
But we can all see the hypocrisy behind it – can’t we? Here’s Another Angry Voice:
Either the EU is a giant anti-democratic behemoth which imposes sinister corporate power grabs against member states’ wills, or it’s a democratic organisation that allows member states to obstruct wonderful, amazing. brilliant, marvellous corporate power grabs. It just can’t be both.
One of the worst aspects of TTIP is the inclusion of sovereignty destroying ISDS components that would allow multinational corporations to completely bypass the democratic and judicial systems of any countries that have signed up to it in order to sue governments in secretive transnational tribunals. This means that if any democratic government introduces new legislation that multinational corporations don’t like (plain packaging on cigarette packs, environmental protection laws, product safety standards, consumer rights, improved workers’ rights …) then the multinational corporations could extract £billions in compensation from the taxpayer in secretive transnational tribunals operated by a tiny band of extremely highly paid, mainly US based, corporate lawyers and arbiters.
This deal between the EU and Canada contains exactly the same kind of shady ISDS tribunals as TTIP. It’s precisely these sovereignty destroying ISDS components that are the main objection of Belgian politicians like Paul Magnette who have led the opposition to CETA.
The reaction from Brexiters has been comically hypocritical. They’re now trying to claim that the CETA is a great thing and that the EU is a basket case for allowing regional democratic parliaments to obstruct this supposedly marvellous deal!
What the hell do these Brexiters want? A few months ago they were telling us that corporate power grabs were evil and unacceptable attacks on our democratic sovereignty in order to push their anti-EU agenda. Now they’re telling us that giant corporate power grabs are the absolute bees knees and the EU is a totally dysfanctional basket case because individual member states and federal regions can assert their democratic sovereignty to obstruct them!
A report is doing the rounds via Twitter and various blogs (e.g. Inquiringminds and pjcjournal) about changes in the European Union in November 2014 that will mean the end of British sovereignty. They also claim that the Prime Minister’s promise to hold an in/out referendum by 2017 is spurious because it would be “illegal” under EU law. Many constituents have contacted their MP about the report, wanting to know if it is true, according toSecond Reading, the blog run by staff at the House of Commons library.
Their verdict: It isn’t and it won’t.
Before we go on, it would be wise to point out that the House of Commons Library is not in any way subservient to any political party or philosophy. It provides impartial research and information services to MPs and their staff.
The article states [all bolding mine]: “The report points to 43 or so areas of EU policy areas that are subject to a system of voting called Qualified Majority Voting or QMV in the EU’s legislative body, the Council, which comprises government ministers from the 28 EU Member States. The report accuses David Cameron of being determined ‘to delay our referendum beyond that date, tying Britain for ever within the non-democratic, totalitarian and now clearly despotic EU’.”
Doesn’t this look like a UKIP plot?
“QMV has been a feature of EU decision-making since the birth of the EEC in 1957. With various EU Treaty amendments, more EU policy areas have moved from governments agreeing by unanimity to agreeing by QMV, largely so that decisions can be made more easily in an expanding EU and not be held up by a need for consensus. QMV has been particularly useful i adopting laws to establish the single market.
“The increased use of QMV does have implications for national sovereignty, because it means individual governments can’t veto proposals they disagree with. However, they do not mean the end of the UK Government or Parliament, as claimed on blogs.
“Individual States’ powers of veto have been removed in some of the 43 areas, where unanimous agreement has been replaced with agreement by a qualified majority. This means governments have to work harder to form coalitions, find allies and negotiate compromises.
“In many of these areas the UK is not affected by any changes to voting because it has an opt-out from that policy area. So the list of items (as reported on blogs) over which it is claimed the UK will have no control is misleading and in some cases wrong:
The UK has an opt-in or opt-out option to EU measures concerning asylum, border controls, crime prevention, criminal justice cooperation, criminal law, Eurojust, Europol, freedom security and justice evaluation, immigration and police cooperation. This means the UK can choose whether or not to participate in decisions on these matters (but if we choose to participate, then we have to abide by the QMV rule).
This arrangement applies to 11 of the items in the list.
The UK has an opt-out from the Euro and Eurozone representation.
In two cases – concerning freedom of movement for workers and social security – there is an ‘emergency brake’, which means that if a Member State objects to a proposal on grounds of important national concerns, the decision is taken by unanimity.
Common defence policy: any move towards achieving a common defence policy will be by unanimity. QMV can be used only to establish ‘structured cooperation’ in defence, whereby a group of like-minded Member States choose to cooperate in a defence-related matter. If the UK does not want to participate, it does not have to.
European Court of Justice: QMV is used only to amend the Court Statute.
Culture: QMV is used for incentive measures only.
Freedom to establish a business: QMV was used before the Lisbon Treaty.
The EU Armaments Agency was not in the Nice Treaty as stated in the blogs. The reference is to the European Defence Agency, which was established in 2004. The European Council (heads of state and government) decided unanimously in June 2003 to ask the “appropriate bodies of the Council to undertake the necessary actions towards creating, in the course of 2004, an intergovernmental agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments”.
Funding the Common Foreign and Security Policy: only urgent start-up funds for emergency situations are subject to QMV.
Sport was not covered by the EU Treaty before Lisbon so the reference to the Nice Treaty is wrong.”
Finally, on the subject of the referendum:
“A UK referendum vote on EU membership will not be ‘illegal’ and the UK will not be prevented from leaving the EU in the event of a negative vote in 2017.
“Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) provides for a Member State to leave the EU if it wishes, without needing the permission of the other Member States. QMV would be used by the other Member States to agree the terms of exit for the withdrawing State.”
So there you have it. British sovereignty is safe and any promise of an in-out referendum on the European Union – by David Cameron or any other UK Prime Minister – is supported, not banned, by EU law.
No cause for celebration: This man is now the leader of the largest British political organisation in the European Parliament.
Could the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be sunk off the coast of a new, anti-federalist Europe?
It seems like a natural consequence of the election victories enjoyed by Eurosceptic and far-right parties across the continent – and one of the few reasons to be optimistic about the result.
We don’t have all the information yet, so it is impossible to be sure, but it does seem likely that people who won popular support by emphasising national sovereignty against that of the EU will be against a trade agreement that suppresses nations’ rights to make their own laws, and puts multinational corporations above countries.
Unfortunately UKIP, the British Eurosceptic party that has won 23 seats (so far), seems more likely to support the agreement that would force British workers into lowest-common-denominator working conditions and pay deals, in a betrayal of the populist promises it made to get elected.
Nigel Farage’s campaign took a leaf out of the Conservative Party’s book by hiding some of UKIP’s most unpalatable plans from the electorate; now that he has what he wants, will we see UKIP working to ensure, for example, that National Health Service privatisation is locked into British law? That would require support for TTIP.
If Farage’s party doesn’t support the controversial plan, they’ll probably stay away from the vote (as they do in most matters; UKIP has one of the worst attendance records in the European Parliament).
Of course the European Parliament doesn’t work the same way as the UK Parliament; UKIP may have won the most seats but this does not automatically hand it power – 23 UK seats is only one-third of those available, not a majority, and it will have to join a larger grouping in order to make its voice heard.
UKIP’s choices over the next few days and weeks will be crucial, as they will allow us to form opinions about how the party’s victory will affect life here in the UK.
The Eurosceptic party’s victory – the first time in more than 100 years that an election has been won by someone other than Labour or the Conservatives – means the other British political parties have more soul-searching to do.
Labour came second, defying right-wing pundits on the BBC and elsewhere who were hoping to see “weird” Ed Miliband suffer. But his lead over the Tories is just 1.5 per cent – hardly a ringing endorsement.
Clearly the British people were not convinced by his offer and Labour must revise its position on Europe or prepare to lose the next general election.
A good starting-place for the Party of the Workers would be a promise to halt the flow of migrant workers from EU countries with weaker economies by pushing for a change to the rule allowing free movement between countries – ensuring that this only happens between states that have comparable economies.
This would put an end to the economic opportunism that has caused the perceived flood of migrants from the poorer countries of eastern Europe, and make it possible for British people to get better jobs, offering more working hours – and negotiate for higher pay.
It isn’t rocket science, but Labour has failed to grasp this concept. One has to wonder why. Maybe Labour is still a bit too fond of Conservative-style neoliberalism. Is that it, Ed?
Labour’s problems are nothing compared with those of the Conservative Party. David Cameron wagered that his promise of an in/out referendum on the EU, to take place in 2017, would win him the next UK general election – but this result has shown that the British people don’t believe a word of it.
Rather than be held to ransom by an over-privileged nob, they have turned to an untried party of even more hard-line right-wingers who would probably create worse problems for working Britons than even the Tories, if they were ever elected into office in Westminster.
That is the message David Cameron has to swallow today: We don’t believe him. We don’t trust him. We don’t want him.
Yet his party seems unrepentant. Prominent members have already rejected calls to strengthen the referendum offer, for example.
The loss will make Cameron more likely to seek a deal with UKIP – and one is already in the offing, if we are to believe the denials coming from other leading Tories. This would be to UKIP’s disadvantage as Farage only needs to look at Nick Clegg to see what will happen.
Clegg should be a broken man. Not only have the Liberal Democrats haemorrhaged local councillors, but now he also has to face up to the fact that he has lost all but one of his party’s MEPs.
The BBC said the survival of Catherine Bearder in the South East region prevented a “humiliating wipe-out” – but isn’t the loss of no less than nine MEPs humiliating enough?
Clegg is already facing calls for his resignation amid claims that nobody wants to listen to him any more. This means the turnabout from “I agree with Nick” in 2010 is now complete. Anyone considering going into coalition with the Conservatives (Farage) should pay close attention. The British voter hatestraitors.
There is one more matter arising from this result; a fact that you are not likely to hear on the mainstream media, but one that seems increasingly important, considering the demise of the Liberal Democrats.
The Green Party was fourth-placed in this election. Its 1,244,475 (so far) voters mean it had two-sevenths of UKIP’s support, while the Conservative Party – the party in power here in the UK – had only three times as many supporters.
Expect Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas to capitalise on this for all they’re worth.
It is the eve of the European Parliamentary elections. How much do you really know about what your candidates would do – if elected?
Much of the debate so far has focused on personalities rather than policies – but does it really matter that Labour won’t commit to an in-out referendum on our EU membership (which is a UK Parliament issue in any case) if its MEPs do their job properly and defend the interests of the British people in the Brussels assembly?
Does it matter that the Conservatives are promising such a referendum, if they give away your right to a high-quality health service, along with your rights at work, to American companies?
These are the issues that really matter.
A few months ago, Vox Political was running articles on the highly controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America. Much of the groundwork has been carried out in secret, hidden from public scrutiny, but the information that has been made available has aroused serious concern that this agreement will weaken existing standards and regulations that protect workers and consumers in the EU.
In particular, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) would allow any foreign company operating in the UK to make a claim against the government for loss of future profits resulting from any regulatory action by the government, such as new legislation. Such claims would be considered by an unelected, unaccountable tribunal composed of three corporate lawyers whose decisions are likely to favour the corporations and would override national laws.
It is widely believed that the TTIP will be used by our Conservative-led government as a means of locking-in its detrimental changes to the National Health Service.
With this in mind, I wrote to three of the four current Welsh MEPs (the fourth is standing down), asking a few simple questions:
Do you want the health of your constituents to depend on a foreign company’s balance sheet?
Are you in favour of sales or the safety of your constituents?
Do you support attacks on workers’ rights?
Do you support the people who elected you – or are you a puppet of the corporations?
The response from Labour’s Derek Vaughan was characteristically short and to the point: “As you would expect, Labour MEPs oppose the ISDS in certainly anything which would allow the Tories/UKIP to argue for further privatisation of the NHS.
“You may also wish to take this matter up with those who really are the puppets of corporations.”
We’ll come to them shortly. Derek’s answer – though brief, tells you everything you need to know about Labour. They aren’t staying silent (as a recent Liberal Democrat letter asserted) and they aren’t pandering to corporate interests. Labour will defend British institutions against any European ruling or agreement that infringes on them. That’s a promise.
Jill Evans, for Plaid Cymru, had a little more to say: “I share your concerns regarding the TTIP as does the rest of my group in the European Parliament, the Greens/EFA group.
“We are 100 per cent against ISDS as we do not believe that extra-judicial powers should be given to foreign investors. We have been working hard to lobby the Commission to get them to make changes to the TTIP… The TTIP will include a strong focus on … co-operation but the regulatory cultures and social and environmental standards on both sides of the Atlantic are very different; conflicts over GMOs and Hormone Beef are just two examples.
“The TTIP is also controversial from an industrial policy point of view. The two blocs are not complementary, but in fierce competition for global markets and the setting of global industrial standards. Transatlantic cooperation could, however, pave the way for higher global ecological standards and for a faster conversion towards a sustainable green economy. Both the EU and the US need to find new avenues to create social wealth. The task we are set with is trying to find the right balance.”
So Plaid and the Greens are as strongly-opposed to the ISDS as Labour, but acknowledge there are advantages to be had – if this agreement is negotiated by the right representatives. This is why it is so important that you use your vote wisely. A vote for UKIP might seem like a worthwhile protest against the UK’s Conservative government, but what good will it do when the Kippers, who support corporate power, wave through measures to strip you of your rights?
And then we have Kay Swinburne, representing the Conservatives. Her response was the longest of the lot, perhaps suggesting that she knew her party’s stance was harder to justify.
“Transatlantic trade flows (goods and services trade plus earning and payments on investment) averaged $4 billion each day through the first three quarters of 2011. In 2008 EU/US combined economies accounted for nearly 60 per cent of global GDP,” she stated.
“However, for all its value and importance, the EU-US trading relationship still suffers from numerous obstacles, preventing it reaching its full potential to provide growth and jobs. It has been estimated that the deal could bring an extra £10bn to the UK annually, which would give a huge boost to jobs in our economy at a time when we are still suffering with the effects of the economic crisis.”
There is little evidence for this, and even that is poor. The European Commission’s own impact assessment admits that a 0.5 per cent increase in growth would be “optimistic”, and independent research suggests that a meagre 0.01 per cent increase in the growth rate over 10 years is more likely. The North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico led to a net LOSS of almost a million jobs in the US. You have to ask why this MEP is arguing against the facts.
“That is an extra £400 to every UK household and while some reports criticise the economic focus, I would argue that this is exactly the kind of stimulus package we should be focusing on,” she continued. Again, this is inaccurate. Every household will not gain an extra £400 because of business deals carried out between very few, very large, corporations. In fact, much larger amounts of money will go to the kind of people who have too much of it already.
“ISDS is a system that allows investors to initiate proceedings directly against a government should they believe that their property has been expropriated illegally, that is, not in conformance with the laws of that country itself,” she continued, skimming over the possibility that a legal challenge could be mounted against changes in a country’s laws – such as Labour’s planned repeal of the Health and Social Care Act that allowed the creeping privatisation of the NHS, if the Conservatives are defeated in the 2015 UK general election.
“The Conservatives in the European Parliament support the inclusion of an ISDS chapter in the agreement, because even with developed countries it ensures certainty for our investors, including SMEs.”
She does not explain what that certainty may be. Is it the certainty that they can run roughshod over their workers? That their profits will take precedence over our health? What about certainty for our citizens?
“Rest assured that this is not a mechanism that will allow for fundamental laws of the EU, such as the REACH legislation on chemicals or the Tobacco Products Directive, to be overturned by a foreign company.” That does not offer any consolation if the laws of the UK do not remain similarly inviolate.
“The EU and its Member States will and must remain able to adopt and enforce, in accordance with their own and EU laws, measures necessary to pursue legitimate public policy objectives in the fields of social and environmental standards, security, the stability of the financial system, and public health and safety.” This seems encouraging, but is overshadowed by what this Conservative MEP has already stated.
“The European Parliament, as well as the UK Government, will also have to give final approval to the deal.”
This is why we need a sceptical European Parliament, and a critical UK Parliament when the deal comes to Westminster for ratification.
That is the information provided by the Welsh MEPs. Labour and the Green Party will stand up for you, while the Conservative Party and UKIP will stand up for the few.
Put in that way, it isn’t a choice at all.
But is the electorate well-enough informed to make the appropriate decision?
Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the ‘little’ people – the populations they are treading on – are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is bitter pill for anyone to swallow, if they have spent any time defending Britain’s membership of the European Union.
The partnership between the EU and the United States would open America to the kind of free trade deals that have been going on in Europe ever since the original Economic Community was formed – but there is a problem.
It isn’t a problem for businesses; they are in line to get a deal better than anything ever experienced in the world of trade. Citizens and national governments, on the other hand – you, me, and the people who represent us – will be railroaded.
This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments.
In other words, this could be the biggest threat to democracy since World War II.
In the UK, it could be used by shale mining companies to ensure that the government could not keep them out of protected areas, by banks fighting financial regulation, and by cigarette companies fighting the imposition of plain packaging for cigarettes. How do we know? Because these things are already happening elsewhere in the world.
If a product had been banned by a country’s regulators, the manufacturer will be able to sue them, forcing that state to pay compensation or let the product in – even if this undermines health and safety laws in that country.
It seems that domestic courts are deemed likely to be biased or lack independence, but nobody has explained why they think the secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers will be impartial. Common sense says they’ll rule for the profit, every time.
Now ask yourself a question: Have you ever heard about this?
Chances are that you haven’t – unless you have read articles by George Monbiot (one in The Guardian this week prompted this piece) or have insider knowledge.
The European Commission has done its utmost to keep the issue from becoming public knowledge. Negotiations on the trade and investment partnership have involved 119 behind-closed-doors meetings with corporations and their lobbyists (please note that last point, all you supporters of the government’s so-called Transparency of Lobbying Bill), and just eight with civil society groups. Now that concerned citizens have started to publicise the facts, the Commission has apparently worked out a way to calm us down with a “dedicated communications operation” to “manage stakeholders, social media and transparency” by claiming that the deal is about “delivering growth and jobs” and will not “undermine regulation and existing levels of protection in areas like health, safety and the environment” – meaning it will do precisely the opposite.
Your Coalition government appears to be all for it. Kenneth Clarke reckons it is “Scrooge-like” to inflate concerns about investor protection and ignore the potential economic gains – but if the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement is any yardstick, exports will drop and thousands of jobs will be lost.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has published an early day motion on the issue – signed by a total of seven fellow Parliamentarians so far.
Labour MEPs are doing their best to cut the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ out of the agreement, but they are fighting a lonely battle against the massed forces of greed.
So now ask yourself a second question: Why is the European Commission lying to Britain when we are already halfway out of the door?
Britain is not happy with the European Union or its place within that organisation. People think too much of their national sovereignty – their country’s freedom to do what it wants – is being stripped away by faceless bureaucrats who do not have the best interests of the population at heart. Now the European Commission is trying to foist this upon us.
For Eurosceptics in Parliament – of all political hues – this is a gift. For those of us who accept that we are better off in Europe – as it is currently constituted and without the new trade agreement – it is a poisoned pill.
Are we being pushed into a position where we have to choose between two evils that could have been avoided, if only our leaders had had an ounce of political will and an inch of backbone?
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