Yes We Can – Take Bribes

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Here’s another bit of news that I am surprised has not been reported more – or maybe it’s just that it has only been reported in Spanish and not yet crossed the language barrier.

15JANPodemos
The headline is fairly straightforward: “The DEA of the US reveals that Venezuela and Iran agreed to finance Podemos through Hispan TV.” “US,” “Venezuela” and “Iran” should be no problem; “DEA” is the Drug Enforcement Administration of the US federal government; “Hispan TV” is a worldwide Spanish-language TV station operated by the public television authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran; and Podemos (SP: “[Yes] We can”) – here we come to the point of all this – is a new, insurgent, left-wing, anti-austerity Spanish political party which did fairly well in the pre-Christmas Spain nationwide elections. (It’s not in government yet, though; no party is yet in government. The old government is still there as caretaker because, unfortunately, several other parties also did well in those elections.)

This is not good news for Podemos. Accepting political contributions from foreign sources, at best, puts any political party in bad odor. At worst, it is illegal; and that is the case in Spain (emphases in the original):

The Law for Party Financing of 2007 prohibited receiving funds from foreign governments but did not impose sanctions on those who evaded this restriction. Nonetheless, last 1 July a reform of the Penal Code came into force which prescribed up to four years’ jail and fines of up to five times the amount of the donation received by formations gaining more than 100,000 euros from another country . . .

Podemos is alleged to have received €5 million from Iranian sources, and undisclosed other amounts from the Venezuelan government. Further, Pablo Iglesias, Podemos‘ leader, is alleged to have received personal payments of between €2,000 and €3,000 numerous times. Again, Hispan TV was used as the main vehicle to move these monies and make things look legal, through inflated invoices and the like. All this is coming to light now – allegedly – because a Venezuelan government insider with knowledge about what has been going on has started talking to the DEA.

The affinity between Podemos and the Venezuelan government is easy to see: both are left-wing. But neither are Muslim; indeed, there has not been a strong Muslim political presence in Spain sine 1492. So why would Iran want to buy influence in an up-and-coming force in Spanish politics this way? For that matter, what is the Iranian government doing in the first place splashing out the cash for a television network to push it views throughout the Spanish-speaking world?

And, really, why haven’t we all heard a lot more about this? Could it be just a journalistic hack-job from a media outlet, El Confidencial, that is hostile to Podemos‘ politics. I have to confess that I really do not know; for what it is worth, El Confidencial seems quite a newcomer to the Spanish media scene, and I’m not even sure whether it has or ever had a paper/sold-on-the-streets version.

Still, as hinted above, the Spanish political situation remain in limbo after that December 20 election because, for the first time, no party won a majority enabling it to govern alone. The parties which did well (including Podemos) have been thrust into the very unfamiliar task of forming a coalition government, something that has never been required before in post-Franco Spain. They are not doing well at it so far; and if it turns out that they can’t work things out, then there would have to be new elections. That is when these allegations – if true – would start to really bite for Podemos.

UPDATE: Here we are in March, 2016 – there still is no new Spanish government yet – and there comes this report that this Podemos case has been brought before the Spanish Tribunal de Cuentas or Court of Accounts:

PodemosII
The facts at issue are pretty much as described in the initial blog-post (above): “the alleged illegal financing of Podemos via Iran’s television station in Spain,” although in this piece there is no mention of Venezuela. So on the one hand this would seem to lend credibility to the accusation; on the other hand, this is once again a report from that same source, El Confidencial.

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Spain’s Low-Cost Miracle

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

After the glance back into Spain’s past last time, I thought a look into that country’s future might be in order. First off: you’ve perhaps heard of the new political party there Podemos, but have you heard of Ciudadanos?

Ciudadanos
The name means “citizens,” and that is another recently formed politial party there. The writer of this piece in the Spanish edition of the Huffington Post, César Ramos, is a politician from the mainstream leftist PSOE party (the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party – formerly of Felipe González). Yet he sees potential in this new political formation, mainly to put an end to the monopoly of the Popular Party (Partido Popular, now in power under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy) of the political space on the Right.

At least Señor Ramos, as a PSOE delegate, would wish for that to be true. From its Wikepedia page it seems that Ciudadanos is more of a regional party for Catalonia, founded to counteract the anti-Spanish feeling there. On the other hand, there is this:

PSOE
Ciudadanos is said here to be able at least to expect enough votes in the upcoming Andalusian regional election, not to win it, but to affect the outcome in favor of the PSOE. By the way, this particular La Información article is unintentionally funny in the way it writes the party name Ciudadanos just like a regular word – so that, for example, the picture caption (to the same picture you see there in the tweet) has the PSOE Andalusian Governor Susana Díaz meeting with ciudadanos meaning just ordinary citizens, when you’re tempted to think instead that it means that she’s meeting with members of the competing party! (OK, so it’s only me who finds this funny . . .) (more…)

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Monuments and Overdue Memory

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Check out this statue:

Franco
If you were to ask me, especially with the hat this looks rather like Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts movement. But you’ll actually find this sculpture in Spain, and – as you might have been able to make out from the tweet’s text – it depicts General Francisco Franco, Spain’s dictator from April of 1939 to his death in November of 1975.

In fact, there are still a number of public works of art of this sort and other monuments to be found in Spain which refer directly to Franco and/or his “accomplishment” of taking over the country in a bitter civil war and then violently disposing of hundreds of thousands of political opponents. That sits rather uncomfortably with Eduardo Ranz, a Spanish lawyer and, at 30 years of age, much too young to have had any contact with Franco or his regime directly. Nonetheless, he filed suit last month against the mayors of 38 Spanish cities and towns to have them get rid a total of 86 specific such monuments to Franco.

As we know, it’s always an almost irresistible temptation to drag Hitler and his Nazis into almost any argument one undertakes, but here I think one can properly forgive Ranz when he points out that “It’s as if, in Germany, a victim of Naziism were to see a swastika in the street. It’s unthinkable.” So one might think, yet those many monuments to Franco remain there, in public, almost forty years after his death.

Topping the list is Franco’s tomb at La Valle de los Caidos, what is characterized here as a “pharonic” sepulcher, maintained at public expense and located not far from Madrid at the “Valley of the Fallen,” where the “Fallen” referred to are Franco’s “Nationalist” troops. It is joined by a Victory Arch, within Madrid and located near the prime minister’s official residence, and towering some 50 meters high. Once again, the “victory” commemorated there is that of Franco in 1939.

The very existence of such shrines must be a shock to the foreign tourists who go see them – those who are able to grasp their full meaning, anyway. Further, for anyone familiar with the extensive persecution and killing of regime opponents that went on during the Civil War and afterwards, Ranz’s Nazi analogy must ring true and lead to a certain incredulity that these are still there in Spain, available to be seen by one and all. Yet this phenomenon reflects the peculiar nature of Spain’s transition away from that dictatorship to democracy. It was swift: Once the caudillo was dead and his designated heir King Juan Carlos was in charge, everyone knew that the King was ready to move the country to democracy and that happened directly. It was also quite bloodless: as this piece briefly mentions, a key development in that movement to democracy was an amnesty law covering everyone associated with Franco and his crimes.

Spain basically gained instant relief from dictatorship in exchange for not making any fuss about those who had misruled the country for so long (indeed, many of whom who had committed what today would be termed “crimes against humanity”). Since 38 years had passed, so that most of those holding irreconcilable grudges against the Franco regime had died out, the country was glad to accept that deal. For about the next ten to fifteen years it was characterized both by the political predominance of the Left (understandable) and by free-wheeling, even dizzy cultural change as all the old legal barriers to behavior disappeared and society had to find new bearings in that Brave New World (including a new attitude towards the Catholic Church, a pillar of Franco’s regime).

Political Amnesia

Again, that Left (mainly Felipe Gonzalez’s Spanish Socialist Workers Party) was careful to continue in the spirit of that amnesty law and not stir up recriminations against villains of the country’s tragic past. Whether of the Right or the Left, subsequent Spanish governments have continued that policy to this day. But that has meant maintaining a deliberate black spot in the collective memory about the most terrible episodes of internecine savagery and cruelty in Spanish history, going back at least to the forcible expulsion of the Muslims that ended in 1492. And it has meant that you still see all those monuments to Franco.

Yes, people die out, but human memory is nonetheless a pretty long-term and durable thing (if not especially accurate, at least in its details). Such terrible episodes cannot be suppressed forever. Slowly, gradually, as (for example) new and revealing histories are written, published, and discussed publicly, a new willingness to reopen this history and come to terms with it is emerging.

No one without a more specific knowledge of how the Spanish courts work can know whether Ranz’s lawsuit is something serious, or merely symbolic. Furthermore, if he does win, then what precisely is supposed to happen with artifacts such as that victory arch and (especially) Franco’s tomb? But if things do come to that, surely the Spanish authorities will be able to figure something out. For now, Ranz’s audacious legal maneuver must surely be greeted as a token of how far things have come, and how far he wants to push them further.

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Annoyed Iberian Cohorts

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Unwise! It looks as if the new Greek premier Alexis Tsipras is alienating those within the EU who otherwise could be potential allies.

Iberia
“Spain and Portugal exasperated by Tsipras’ remarks.”

Tsipras is already under fire to some degree in his home country due to the temporary settlement he reached with the Eurogroup earlier in February which gained for Greece needed additional financing for another four months, but at the cost of what seemed to be several retreats from the ambitious plan to reject outsider-imposed austerity that had led his Syriza party to electoral victory in January. On Saturday (28 February) the French newsmagazine Le Point reported him hitting out at what he perceived as the distinct lack of support he had received in those negotiations from countries you would think were in the same situation as Greece, namely Spain and Portugal, accusing them of wanting to lead Greece down the road to a “financial asphyxiation.”

Top politicians from those two countries were quick to react, including Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who told a party gathering in Seville that “[w]e are not responsible for the frustration that the radical Greek Left created by making promises that it knew were unsustainable.” Meanwhile, the spokesman for the ruling PSD party in Portugal termed Tsipras’ accusations “very grave, lamentable and false.”

The thing is, that party gathering Rajoy addressed in Seville was of the Partido Popular, Spain’s right-wing, Christian democratic party, while although that “PSD” of the Portuguese ruling party’s name translates to “Social Democratic Party,” it is also of the center-right. Syriza, as everyone knows by now, is of the Left; indeed, that word is an acronym of the party’s longer, formal name which translates as “Coalition of the Radical Left.”

All this stands to reason when you see how the two Iberian countries are not hitting it off with the new Greek government if only because, clearly, in the context of the on-going EU sovereign debt crisis, “conservative” means plodding onward with the terms of the bail-out packages granted by the infamous “Troika” (made up of the EU – meaning mainly the Eurogroup, but also the Commission – the ECB and the IMF). “Radical,” on the other hand, certainly means trying to break out of that arrangement. Although not necessarily only “Radical Left”: indications are that the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party, and so of the Radical Right, should it come to power – Heaven forfend! I understand that much of its leadership is in jail, anyway – would be similarly dismissive towards the terms of Greece’s bail-out package, or worse.

On the other hand, if everyone would just stop and think a bit, it’s clear that all periphery Eurozone countries still laboring under bail-out packages should have many powerful interests in common. First and foremost, any softening of terms that an aggressive, daring national government might be able to grab/cajole from the “Troika” authorities (going all the way to outright debt cancellation) would naturally be something that fellow countries in the same situation should be able to claim for themselves as well. Such considerations clearly were at least in the back of the mind of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and other Eurogroup officials who took such a hard line against the new Syriza government’s proposals. For now, it seems this hard-line faction has managed to keep even other Eurozone countries still suffering under bail-out-mandated austerity firmly within the corral.

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European One-Armed Banditry

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

No, we don’t mean there’s been a new crime-wave perpetrated by cripples criss-crossing the Old Continent; nor (even though this is a little bit more likely) some illicit fund-raising campaign undertaken by ISIS fighters having had to return from their MidEast adventures due to grievous upper-body injuries.

Rather, for “one-armed bandit” here we are referring to the slot machine, that most-insidious piece of gambling equipment capable of enchanting for hours – and many dollars, euros, or what have you lost – on end quite considerable cohorts of people with the particular psychological disposition to be so captivated. Especially in it most-modern incarnation, i.e. those machines governed by internal software, far from offering players any “fair” game it is rather carefully programmed to manipulate the sucker sitting before it so as to extract the maximum of money.

A modern-day societal plague, in short; yet thereby irresistible to those businesses, and occasionally even governments, which can manage to gain permission to make the investment into equipment and then set them up so as to start preying upon the passing parade of suckers.

In terms of the latest news from Europe on this score, as is so often the case we witness one step forward together with one back. Starting in Austria:

WienGamble
Ralf Leonhard is the Austrian correspondent for the Berlin newspaper the taz (Die Tageszeitung), and he reports about how, as of January 1, das kleine Glückspiel – “small-scale gambling” – has been banned within the city of Vienna. That basically boils down to one-armed bandits, which previously numbered some 2,600 in the city, spread out among 505 locations of which 69 were Spiellokale, that is, pure slot-machine halls. (The other establishments were places like bars and cafés; they’re now banned there, too.) (more…)

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Wishing You Many Hot Returns

Monday, December 15th, 2014

On a weekend when high EU representatives were decrying the violation of “European values” through the mass-arrests of journalists in the European continent’s southeastern corner, in Turkey, as we can read from Mathieu de Taillac in Le Figaro the very same sort of thing was happening in its southwestern corner – that is, in Spain, and therefore in what is already a member-state.

SpainAsylum
“Spain, the only land frontier between Europe and Africa, feels abandoned by an EU which is quick to give lessons.” Yes, that “land frontier” does exist, namely at Ceuta and Melilla, which are two small enclaves of Spanish sovereignty on the northern coast of the African mainland that have managed to survive there over the centuries. They are both marked off from surrounding territory by no less than three lines of barriers with surveillance cameras (as well as, if we are to believe the account in this article, “razor blades” – de lames de rasoir).

The thing is, these enclaves’ presence also means that if illegal immigrants somehow manage to get past all those barriers – and around 28,000 have accomplished that over the past ten years – then in effect they have successfully made it into Europe. According to current Spanish legislation, they have the right to request asylum and get free legal help to help the pursue that. In the meantime, they of course get to stay in “Europe” because their asylum case is being decided – it can take a long time – and who knows?, maybe they’ll ultimate get it. (more…)

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Stranger in a Strange Teutonic Land

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

As is the case in all democratic societies, it is healthy for top government officials occasionally to get out and mingle among their constituents. That’s why Spanish government spokeswoman María Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría Antón recently was in Germany, as El Huffington Post reports.

HuffPoES_Santamaria

In Germany?! Why sure: unemployment in Spain itself has gotten to be so bad that legions of Spaniards – those with true initiative, who in past centuries would have headed over to the Western Hemisphere – have moved to Germany to find places for themselves in the much better economic situation there. Brace yourself for the tide of funny stories sure to come as these two very different cultures collide – most expat Spaniards, for example, won’t even yet have an appetite at the outrageously early (for them) hours when they will find Germans sitting down to their evening meal.

Further, there are the two rather different languages. For what it’s worth, new Bayern München coach Pep Guardiola has seemingly dealt with that problem rather well (video here of his first Munich press conference), although I hasten to add that his own move there was hardly prompted by the same economic concerns.

In any case, we had the rather telegenic Ms. Santamaría there in Germany, where she was a guest on the popular morning TV show Morgenmagazine. The unstated question behind her appearance there must have been “So many Spaniards are here! What are you going to do about it?”

Turns out that much of what the Spanish government is trying to do about it actually involves Germany. On the show she expressed her admiration for that country’s apprentice-based youth training system and her government’s intention to adopt something similar. More concretely, Spain and Germany recently agreed to have 5,000 students from the former be trained within that system in the latter country.

But then the inevitable follow-up: Aren’t you afraid that most of those 5,000 will then simply stay in Germany after their training? Her response: “What we want is to create employment in Spain so that young people can freely decide whether they want to work in Germany or in Spain.” Well, indeed: let’s hope that Spain can make enough progress on the employment front to give itself at least even odds as the home country versus some other country when it comes time for young people to decide where their future lies!

But no worries. Ms. Santamaría further announced on behalf of her government an upcoming “program of reforms such as have never been seen in democratic history” to fix the national labor market and solve the problem. Spaniards now settling in Germany are also finding out how much less the natives are prone to hyperbole.

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Quick! Emergency Marriage!

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Governments are falling all around Europe: Greece, Italy – and next, after national elections happening tomorrow, the Spanish government. True, the current Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has had enough and won’t be standing for re-election himself, but polls show a crushing defeat is in store for his successor at the head of Spain’s Socialist Party, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. What else do you expect, with > 20% unemployment, shaky banks and a government imposing more and more austerity even as it flirts with default anyway?

The next Prime Minister will surely be the leader of Spain’s other major party, the right-wing Partido Popular (commonly translated as “People’s Party”), Mariano Rajoy, to the point that Rajoy has already started issuing messages (e.g. “Give us a break!”) meant for the European financial establishment. But there’s another area of policy (among many, admittedly) where he has held strict radio silence:

Espagne : mariages gays express sur le Web avant les élections http://t.co/FMHPonil

@lemondefr

Le Monde


That’s right: Strict old, conservative Spain actually turned out to be rather progressive back in 2005, when it approved homosexual marriage. (Actually, not only that, but also gay couple adoption and inheritance rights to same-sex partners.) But that was when the Socialists were in power. Would the conservative People’s Party – especially if it comes in with the expected landslide – repeal that? After all, at the time they did vote against the 2005 laws pretty much en bloc.

As this article from Le Monde shows, many thousands of Spanish gays are not willing to take that chance. So it turns out that this very weekend is an especially festive and happy one there on the Iberian Peninsula as the number of marriages is WAY above normal. Well OK: maybe rather “festive” and “happy,” considering the constrained circumstances – but in all cases certainly “gay.”

“But how can Spain’s marriage infrastructure handle this rat-through-the-python bulge in demand”? you might be asking. (OK, maybe you wouldn’t particularly use “marriage infrastructure.”) One thing that is helping a lot is a high-tech innovation from the small Andalusian village of Jun, near Granada, whose mayor, José Antonio Rodriguez, has set up a system for marrying people on-line. It only takes five days; you don’t actually have to visit there; and apparently you’ll be completely, legally married afterwards. Rodriguez says that, whereas Jun had only eleven same-sex marriages in all of 2010, it now does fifty per week.

Who knows? Maybe that same sort of solution is for you – IF you share that particular sexual preference, have arranged a willing partner to join you in conjugal bliss, and know at least a little bit of Spanish. You can follow Mayor Rodriguez on Twitter at @alcaldejun (38,180 followers when last I looked!).

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Shut Your Big German Mouth!

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Don’t look now, but another EU sovereign debt crisis is creeping up. This can be seen in the effective interest rates currently paid for the obligations of the usual problematic countries – Greece, of course, along with Portugal and Ireland, but also Italy and Spain. The last-named had hoped that it had made it out of the woods – mainly by means of various public-spending austerity measures – and so Spanish financial experts are particularly aggrieved now that it seems the country’s painful fiscal virtue is threatening to be all for naught. One such, C. Pérez of the Spanish newspaper El País, knows who is to blame and issues his accusation today: Berlin sows doubts about debt and the contagion reaches Spain and Italy.

It’s almost like what happened back when the EU sovereign debt crisis first broke in January, after the new Greek government took office and felt obligated to announce that the country’s debt and fiscal situation was much worse than the previous regime had led everyone to believe. Then, Germany for a long time resisted coming to Athens’ assistance, and thereby succeeded in little more than spreading doubts about their fiscal probity to Portugal, Ireland, and Spain as well, before finally in May rallying Eurozone countries to set up a huge and unprecedented EU sovereign debt support fund.

This time the story is slightly different, although the Germans are still the villains of the piece. It has to do with the proposal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble recently unveiled for the establishment of a mechanism to deal with future sovereign debt crises: first, a program of intensified fiscal austerity for the deadbeat country, accompanied by a mandatory lengthening of their debt’s maturity date; then (if that does not work to calm investor fears of a default) intervention with EU funds, but with required provisions for the lenders to get back less than they are otherwise due, i.e. to take a loss on their investment. Schäuble: “The EU was not created to enrich financial investors.”

All that seems reasonable in itself, but in the first place the Germans here are explicitly raising the prospect again of sovereign defaults. That’s supposed to be unmentionable, and when it is mentioned it tends to make investors sit up in alarm and take notice. More importantly, though, the German proposals also amount to a change of the rules of the game for lending money to Eurozone countries; for one thing, before this investors weren’t expected to have to take a loss if the EU and/or IMF had to come in to cover the debts (and the later maturity date is not something designed to thrill them either).

Given that this is the proposal being pushed by Germany, the EU’s paymaster, these investors are naturally adjusting their expectations for such a near-future development now: the Greek, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish and even Italian debt they are holding no longer seems quite so attractive in the light of this likely rules-change, and so we see the effective rates on those debts lately rising up dangerously to levels potentially high enough to ensure that, in effect, they never can be repaid by those countries themselves.

The result: in trying to address the problem of how to handle sovereign debt crises in the future, the EU has come close to bringing about such a crisis in the here-and-now, and has plunged countries which had thought themselves at least on the margins – namely Spain and Italy – squarely back into the danger-zone. It’s no wonder they’re not happy about it. Unfortunately, there’s a limit to how much of substance can be accomplished by secret consultations among the EU member-states. Such a crisis was probably inevitable, given that top EU leaders refused to simply stick their heads in the sand and pretend that such serious international financial trouble could never come around again.

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The Rain in Spain

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Even as the first Greek act in the developing euro-crisis plays on – now with fatalities, as three people die during violent demonstrations in Athens – the focus of public attention is starting to shift to a feared second act in other countries with similarly weak finances, like Portugal or Spain. With that come calming assurances from high EU officials, like EU Council President Herman van Rompuy (remember him?) who characterized any such fears of financial contagion as “irrational.” Going to the horse’s mouth, though – so to speak – we find them to be anything but, as we can see from an article by Luis Doncel (Spanish risk runs rampant) in the mainstream Spanish paper El País. (The hat-tip for discovering this article goes to Eurointelligence – in English, of course – whose piece itself offers a potpourri of interesting current news items on the Greek crisis.) (more…)

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The Failed Brussels EU Summit

Sunday, December 14th, 2003

The decisive EU summit in Brussels this weekend to work out a final text of a Constitutional Treaty failed to achieve that aim. As had been expected, the principal stumbling-block was the question of the voting regime to be used for passing measures within the Council of Ministers by a “qualified majority”; both Poland and Spain stuck firmly to their demand that the current voting system, inaugurated by the December, 2000 Nice Treaty, be retained, while other states – principally the EU’s two biggest players, Germany and France – were equally as adamant that a new “double majority” system, proposed in the new Constitution, be implemented. But there were other points that had to be left for later resolution as well, as we’ll see. (more…)

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Countdown to the Brussels Summit I: Irritation at Poland

Monday, December 8th, 2003

Last week, while we here at EuroSavant were obsessing over the previous Sunday’s draw for the European Football Championship next summer, Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller and several of his entourage were victims of a helicopter crash while returning to Warsaw from a visit to Silesia (the southwest part of Poland). No one was killed, but Miller himself sustained serious injuries to his back, and Polish newspapers all ran a photograph recently showing him lying in a hospital bed, all bandaged up although otherwise looking as hardy and self-composed as usual, with President Aleksander Kwasniewski sitting alongside.

According to Miller, his injuries won’t prevent him from attending the climactic EU summit in Brussels over the draft Constitution coming up this weekend, even if he has to show up there in a body-cast. In a recent analysis entitled The Poles Are Europe’s New Nay-Sayers, the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende points out that what is likely to be waiting for him there, at the least, are marathon negotiating sessions stretching long into the night “which can force even healthy politicians to their knees.” And that even means “healthy politicians” whose member-states have mainly stayed on the sidelines during the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), remaining above the acrimony. For the main protagonist in the process that the Poles have become, on the other hand, the coming days can be expected to bring not only long nights but also intense pressure. (more…)

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The Danes Wax Rhetorical Over Naples

Sunday, November 30th, 2003

Let’s now go to the reporting of the run-up to that EU IGC in Naples (and its early going) in the Danish press. If you want championship coverage of just what was contained in that omnibus compromise proposal distributed last Tuesday by the foreign ministry of the current-EU president, Italy, the piece to turn to is Politiken’s article Denmark Concerned over Italian Proposal for Constitution. (more…)

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Approaching the Naples IGC – French View

Saturday, November 29th, 2003

We’re back “in the groove” now, as you’d expect we would be, since there are big things going on. Yesterday and today in Naples there has taken place a meeting of EU foreign minsters constituting the latest step in the process of formal negotiations over the proposed European Constitution collectively termed the “Intergovernmental Conference” (IGC). The French press covers the run-up to this meeting well. (Coverage of what is actually accomplished – if anything – will probably be available by Monday.) (more…)

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An Interim IGC Evaluation: Buy Your Dollars Now!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2003

As varied as the individual details may have been, one theme clearly predominates the preceding accounts on this website, from the French, Dutch, and the Czech press, of the progress of the EU draft Constitution Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) so far. And that is, of course, that there has been virtually none – indeed, that there is even considerable dissatisfaction over the process currently being used to try to gain common agreement on an EU Constitution. (more…)

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A Nice* Refresher

Wednesday, October 8th, 2003

The EU’s Nice Treaty of December, 2000, stands in the immediate background to the ongoing deliberations in Rome over the draft Constitution that began this past weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, should this attempt to arrive at a mutually-acceptable EU Constitution (or perhaps “constitutional treaty”) fail, the status quo of that Nice Treaty is what the EU will be left with, until (if/when) the next attempt at further institutional reform actually succeeds. As we also have seen, Nice has had a more direct influence on the Rome IGC, in that the advantageous voting allocation in the European Council awarded there to Spain and Poland – for whatever reason – has become a point of contention. Those countries seemingly refuse to agree to the draft Constitution terms which would have them give it up.

So we find just what the doctor ordered in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, namely a refresher on that Nice summit of almost three years ago was all about, in an article entitled Failed Nice Summit Continues to Play Tricks with the EU. (more…)

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Poland Set to Derail EU IGC?

Friday, October 3rd, 2003

I’m back home, and back in business. And just a quick note for that subset of my clientele concerned (as am I) about the best Internet café in Prague: Unfortunately, the one I mentioned at the Narodni Galerie on Dukelskych hrdinu will shut down for good at the beginning of the week of 5 October. There were always free terminals to be had there, yes; but a normally welcome fact like that can also eventually backfire, when those in charge evaluate whether the facility is bringing in enough revenue to justify its existence.


The big event coming up soon from the EuroSavant perspective is the EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) for evaluating and (probably) amending, prior to official submission for approval to the 25 EU governments, the draft Constitution submitted last June by the European Constitutional Convention. One major thread to this story, it seems to me, is the hard line that the Polish government is taking in the run-up to this IGC, making its various demands for changes to the draft document clear and threatening to veto the whole process if it doesn’t get them. I noted this only obliquely in a recent entry which discussed the controversy over the proposed German “Center Against Expulsions” memorial for Berlin. But with the ICG due to start tomorrow, it’s time to zero-in on the topic – and fortunately, Le Monde’s new correspondent for Poland, Christophe Châtelot, does exactly that with what is his first dispatch in his new assignment, an article entitled Poland Goes on the Assault against Future European Institutions. (more…)

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Iraq Through Spanish Eyes

Monday, August 11th, 2003

Spain is not among those countries listed over on the left side, under “Publications that I monitor, by country.” But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t systematically cover the Spanish press as well, if I so chose. It’s more a matter of where my interests lie (more in Central/Eastern Europe than in the Iberian Peninsula) and my degree of comfort with the language, determining how quickly, comfortably, and effectively I can read texts.

But I can’t rule out that interesting articles will come up in the Spanish press that I’ll want to tell you about – as happened today (aided by an oblique reference from a German news site, plus some serendipity). In fact, I’m rather pleased that the commentary piece I found in ABC de Madrid (a conservative Spanish newspaper), entitled Napoleón en Bagdad (you can translate that one for yourself, ¿no?) fits in rather nicely with my current theme of national commentary on the tribulations being encountered by America and her allies in occupied Iraq. (more…)

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French Alarm over the EU Constitutional Convention

Friday, May 30th, 2003

Returning to its non-English-language roots, EuroSavant today examines reactions to the unveiling of the draft EU constitution on the Continent (or “in Europe,” as certain British newspapers are wont to call that land mass stretching out on the other side of the Channel – as if they don’t happen to be part of it, legally, administratively, and even historically). And yes, loyal and long-standing €S readers, we first consider France. Surely there everyone is firmly on the side of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the Constitutonal Convention’s president, and his draft document. (more…)

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