Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 
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Guest post: Amy Devlin on the Merkel/Schulz debate.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 9, 2017 in European Union

 

Angela Merkel: An Insight for Irish Students

Amy Devlin is attending NUI Galway, where she is studying English and German. 

As an Irish student who has lived in Germany and studies the language, I have a surprisingly limited awareness of the country’s politics. Recently German affairs have found their way into the Irish news, because of trouble forming their coalition government. A face which continues to appear at the mast of all these stories is that of Angela Merkel, a woman who I daresay all Europeans know, if not love. Yet Merkel’s legacy as German Chancellor, the equivalent of Prime Minister, is undoubtedly impressive; she has been in the position since 2005, winning four elections. Germany’s most recent federal elections took place on the 24th of September 2017, seeing the Christian Democratic Union, under the leadership of Merkel, win 33% of the votes, and obtaining the largest number of seats in the Bundestag again this year. The Social Democratic Party of Germany, led by Martin Schulz followed in second place, receiving 25% of votes. Following the election of parties to parliament, the decision of who would be German Chancellor remained. Despite a decrease in favour in public opinion polls, Merkel was re-elected, and her debate with candidate Martin Schulz, which took place on the 3rd of September, is indicative as to why.

The televised debate took place on the show ‘Das Tv-Duell 2017’ and revealed the candidates’ stances on key issues including the Refugee Crisis, migration and international relations. Claus Strunz and Sandra Maischberger served as moderators, and they wasted no time in setting the debate in motion. The first questions posed to the candidates were ones directed at their characters and public personas; these questions hint at how the debate will unfold. The candidates’ responses are contrasting and predict the course of the debate; Schulz was unable to grasp at his argument with convincing certainty, while Merkel gave assertive, composed answers, even managing a smile.

A major area where the candidates’ opinions differed was the topic of migration, and particularly the issue of refugees in Germany. Schulz criticised his opponent for her decisions in 2015, of course referring to Germany’s open borders policy, and quoted an earlier interview in which Merkel claimed she would repeat those actions. Schulz cleverly appealed to the working class majority of the population, where the most angst and uncertainty regarding the influx of refugees lies, leaving Merkel able to simply thank volunteers and point out the dramatic nature of the situation. This was one of the few instances in which Schulz gained the upper hand. However, Schulz was unable to hold onto that early advantage; the topic of integration provided Merkel with a chance to exercise her level-headed, reasonable perspective. She identified with the portion of the population who were ‘sceptical’ of Islam, and addressed the key question of whether Islam is a part of Germany, acknowledging the presence of the religion is indeed growing in the country. She finished her piece with the reassurance that Islam will be monitored, and mosques will be closed if unacceptable activity occurs. Jumping impulsively on the chance to disagree with Merkel, Schulz attempted to create an argument in favour of Islam, but failed to make a comprehensible sentence.

The tone of the debate was one of respect and appreciation; it is certain that the debate between German Chancellor candidates was much more amiable than any Trump-Hilton debate. The body language of the candidates was not defensive or offensive, simply professional and attentive, with straight shoulders and open arms and chest regions- a sign of the mutual respect and willingness to listen.

Despite both candidates managing valid, intelligent arguments, Merkel’s experience and capability clearly shone through. Her greater awareness of the international community and willingness to work with other world leaders backed up her arguments, particularly on the issue of North Korea and Turkey; she was an advocate for cooperation and teamwork, while contrastingly Schulz suggested cutting the American president out of North Korea negotiations and severing ties with Turkey. It is no surprise that Angela Merkel is serving her fourth term as German Chancellor, given her experience, confidence and collected nature which dominated this debate.

 
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We should teach globalization.

WTOPreviously published in The Times Ireland Edition.

I used to work with a guy who regarded me as the spokesperson for the “Right-wing Thatcherite” FF/PD coalition. He was very left-wing himself, and despite living in a house provided by the taxpayer, having a medical card, children’s allowance and paying almost no income tax himself he would savage the government on a daily basis for being anti-working class. His solution to every thing was a 32 county socialist republic where people like me would pay far more tax.

Occasionally, he would declare that he would be happy himself to pay more tax to achieve “social justice”.

Then one day he turned up with a load of cartons of cigarettes which he’d bought off a fella on Moore Street which were not, shall we say, tax compliant. I challenged him on this.

Without a glimmer of shame he replied “Yeah, but the amount of tax on cigarettes is ridiculous!”

To his credit, he wasn’t being evasive about his tax evasion. When I pointed out that the billions raised on tobacco funded public services, he was only interested in how unfair the level of tax was. This from a guy who savaged me on every other day about uncaring cuts to health and welfare budgets.

He genuinely could not see the connection, and in fairness, who could blame him?

After all, who is making it their task to explain the link between taxes raised and public services provided, other than the odd ranting bearded columnist?

It’s not just Irish public spending. I had a discussion with a successful businessman who could not understand why government could not refuse to buy products or services from abroad. When told that other governments could do the same, he was genuinely perplexed that the two could be linked.

Watching debates about Brexit and Trumpist protectionism, it’s becoming clear that the very concept of critical thinking is coming under threat in modern western society. People want to be able to buy low cost items whilst complaining at the same time about free trade.

There are two sides to this. One is the social acceptance not necessarily of ignorance, but the belief that all opinions must have equal weight. Just listen to how much broadcast current affairs coverage is taken up with vox pops. You can hear heart-rendering stories about people struggling with homelessness, yet come away from the story not knowing how many housing offers by that same council were refused by people on waiting lists, and why. It’s almost regarded as impolite to challenge a non-politician on anything they say, although there is an exception made for HSE officials and anybody in any form of business.

Perhaps we need to teach globalisation in our schools as a subject in itself? After all, it is the single factor that will almost certainly shape the lives of the next generation of kids and probably their kids too. Globalisation as a subject would almost certainly be a lesson in critical thinking itself. I’m not talking about it as a defence of free market ideology either, because there are arguments to be made for protectionism as well. But as means of getting the next generation of voters to understand that the 21st century is a devilishly complicated and integrated place, and that pulling lever X will cause something to happen in Y.

From people who think that scrapping the government jet or TD salaries will solve all our problems to the man who rang up Joe Duffy suggesting that the government could reduce house prices by ordering everybody to knock a zero off their house value, we struggle to connect the dots. At few points in our secondary education, still the highest level most people will reach, will we be required to logically dismantle and explain big concepts like taxation vs spending, or international trade.

Instead, people are permitted to separate connected issues, and demand lower priced products, higher wages, and private sector innovation at the same time, as if they have no relationship to each other. People talk about how nobody elected the bond markets without grasping that you have to sell bonds to them and take their money in the first place for them to have any power over you.  

Of course, we know where it leads. Venezuela is currently led by the most economically illiterate policy-decided-down-the-pub government in the world, ordering supermarkets to sell below cost and then wondering why there is no toilet paper on the shelves the following week.

That country also shows us where such a failure of rational thought leads: suspicion and constant fingers being pointed at “them”. We see the same in Brexit England and Trump’s America: an almost Salem-like belief that dark forces are the cause of all problems, and their eradication the solution to everything from job-replacing technology to consumer forces to demographics. Trump and Wilders and Le Pen are the modern Witchfinders General of the age of emotional suspicion over reason.

There’s a scene in the movie “Whoops Apocalypse” where Peter Cook plays an insane but extremely popular prime minister who believes pixies cause unemployment, and proposes to create jobs by throwing employed people off a cliff.

We used to laugh at stuff like that. These days, not so much. If we’re not careful, yesterday’s satire could be tomorrow’s presidential tweet.       

 
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The Great Voter Transfer Window.

Marine-LePenPreviously published in The Times Ireland Edition.

The answer is staring us in the face. It’s so simple. On this side of the Atlantic we have a bunch of  Islamophobic globalist conspiracy-fearing The Past was Just Better Somehow voters. On the other side we have a bunch of Islamophobic globalist conspiracy-fearing voters.

Wouldn’t they all be happier together? Or put it another way. Imagine Hillary voters stepping off a boat onto a continent with no death penalty, universal healthcare, strict gun control and where even conservatives support the welfare safety net? Who think countries working together is actually normal and not a conspiracy of the Rothschild family?

See where I’m coming from here?

We need an Atlantic voter transfer window. We send them our crazies, we take their rationals.

There are challenges, of course, but also opportunities. Don’t tell me there isn’t a huge TV opportunity in watching Trump, Wilders and Le Pen voters getting to know each other.

“Wait a minute: you guys speak French?”

“Pardon? To whom do I give this doctor’s bill? What? I have to pay for it myself? Sacre bleu!”

But at least they could agree on one thing: they all hate Muslims.

“A toast to our American friends!”

“Eh, pardon Madame Le Pen, but we don’t drink wine here. Alcohol is evil! This here is a dry county!”

“Eh, OK…can we all agree that Muslims are terrible?”

“Yes!”

“Nearly as bad as the Jews!”

“Eh, steady on there.”

“And don’t get me started on them darn tootin’ homosexuals!”

“No, we’re against the Muslims because they’re against the homosexuals.”

“The Muslims are against the homosexuals?”

We did this once before, you know.

Put a load of fanatics on a boat and sent them to America.

It was called the Mayflower.

 
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We need to take the lead on tax harmonisation.

Previously published in The Sunday Times Ireland Edition

Who would have thought that Brexit was going to be so boring? It’s going on and on and on and aside from the odd entertaining scene provided by Brexiteers united in a bond of trust akin to that of your average New Jersey gangster, it feels like nothing is actually happening.

As if that isn’t bad enough, our political parties know that despite the mind-numbing tedium of the process, they have to be seen to be constantly talking about it because it is, of course, very important to our open island economy. That would be fine if Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and Labour and even (whisper it) the shinners all had differing opinions on what our response to Brexit should be. But they don’t. Each one is an interpretative dance saying the same thing: no border, keep the UK market open, and keep the rights our citizens currently enjoy both here and in the UK. Even an election won’t change it, regardless of whether FF or FG end up propping up the other, the Schrodinger’s Cat of Irish politics, both in and out of power simultaneously.

The funny thing is that there is a huge issue looming towards us which is going to require a huge national debate. It has the potential to tear us apart, destroy our European policy, indeed call into question if not our membership of the European Union itself but at least the Eurozone. Whilst Micheal and Leo are down in steerage, drawing each other like “one of your French girls”, there’s a wall of pain looming out of the night towards us and we may not have anyone in the crow’s nest with binoculars.

It is, of course, our old friend, tax harmonisation. It’s back on the table, it isn’t going away, and more to the point, we should be willing to engage. It’s time we start the national debate. Should we support a European corporation tax regime?

We all know the arguments against. Our sovereign right to set corporate tax is the closest thing we have in Ireland to the Americans right to bear arms. Whereas in the US middle-aged men dress up in combat gear and take up positions on streets with ridiculously unnecessary firepower, in Ireland corporate lawyers stand menacing with copies of the Maastricht treaty tucked in underarm holsters. We’re on a rock in the north Atlantic, and without the power to help giant corporations fiddle their taxes (sorry, achieve optimum tax efficiency) we have bugger all to offer them compared to other countries within the single market. That and we’re a bleeding island too, that doesn’t help either.

True, we do speak English. The Americans regard us as less objectionable than the French and not as scary as the Germans, and in any case they’re related to half of us. Also it helps that our nearest neighbours seem determined to win the Olympic gold in self-face punching, but the tax issue is a big deal to us.

But things are changing on the continent. Emmanuel Macron is busy trying to push through reforms to French labour law to, you know, let businesses hire people without the MD having to surrender a kidney as a hostage. But as his plummeting poll numbers show, he’ll need to do something to shore up the centre-left vote that put him in. What better way than kicking the crap out of mega-companies? Nobody likes them anyway, so make them pay more than the current somewhat modest contribution they make to our corporate tax coffers? Hence our problem.

We could panic, and try to hold the line. It would at least save us the hassle of having to think up a new policy. Lord knows, our politicians sure hate having to think up anything other than new ways to spend other people’s money. Didn’t we get through the first fifty years of independence on a single idea? That everything was the dirty Brits fault and if they cleared off out of the north we’d be in clover? That was quickly followed up by Jaysus, Look at the Size Of The Wallet On That German Fella! Now we’re like a non-violent Pablo Escobar, helping all sorts dig holes to bury whatever it is they’re burying, of which we’d be shocked, shocked I tells ye, to discover was money.

Now that era is coming to a close, and rather than roar and shout and play the victim, let’s confront a few harsh realities.

Yes, Macron needs the tax revenue. But so do we. Just go into McDonalds and see the stationary robot you type your order into. We’re entering a new period of human existence, where labour surplus (what we used to call unemployment) mixed with longer life expectancy will require huge wealth redistribution. Everything from more health spending to a basic income will require more tax revenue, and Ireland alone can’t raise that money if it is engaged in tax competition with other members of the single market.

The argument has always been made that we will be screwed by a consolidated tax base (CCCTB) because we lose a very attractive tool and get little in return as many of those companies, hit by taxes wherever they are in the EU, decide to move to the continent where the main marketplace is.

It’s a fair point. It’s also why Ireland can’t just drag our heels but have to leap forward with a proposal. That yes, we are willing to drop our veto to tax harmonisation. But only if it goes the whole way by creating a central European Corporate Tax Treasury. A central fund where all Europe’s corporate tax revenue will go, and where a country like Ireland, at a serious disadvantage being both on the Atlantic rim and an island, will be guaranteed a compensatory share. A share we can use to openly bribe companies to stay here, whilst enlarging the corporate tax take for all of Europe.

It’s a big deal. It might even need a referendum, given the fact that we would be effectively ceding some tax-raising powers to Brussels. This is high stakes, because the Brits have proven that they can’t stop European integration and we can’t either.

But we can turn this to our strength. Google and Apple and the rest aren’t dummies. They can see the argument on corporate tax is changing globally. Now, with the Brits sailing off into the 19th century, the corporations still have a friend at the table that gets them. That will listen.

Us. The island between Boston and Berlin.

But only if we take the lead, work that seat, be the bridge between our FDI friends and the Macron-Merkel alliance.  

Scary? Yup. That’s life in bed with the giant Franco-German elephant.

But rather than complain about being squashed, better we get an early say as to who gets what side of the bed. 

 
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Hollande: proof that playing it safe is sometimes the most dangerous thing to do.

Posted by Jason O on May 14, 2017 in European Union, Politics

Hollande scooterPresident Francois Hollande is leaving office with approval ratings that would make Fred West distance himself. Why is he so unpopular? What terrible thing did he do? Well, alright, he did that thing that every sane Frenchman must know is lethal. It wasn’t having a mistress that was the problem. Sure, that’s to French politics what having a favourite piece of scripture is to US politics. No, he humiliated his partner in the process, and that is the political equivalent of sticking a fork in a toaster.

Even so, he could probably have weathered even that if he’d been actually successful as president, and addressed the economic malaise and self-doubt that that has gripped the French for the last fifteen years. It wasn’t that he did something bad. It was that he, like Sarkozy and Chirac before him, was terrified of doing anything. He simply refused to make bold but unpopular decisions until it was too late.

As he packs his boxes over the weekend it must have occurred to him that trying to avoid being unpopular does not automatically make one popular. It makes one look weak, and that’s never popular. Unlike Blair or Merkel or even George W. Bush who will find their legacies debated for decades, Hollande will be the forgotten president. Not even a quietly competent unshowy John Major type. Just forgotten. That’s not an achievement.

Supposing he had attempted to push through big and radical economic changes, as Gerhard Schroeder had in Germany. Would it have saved his presidency? Possibly not. But Schroeder didn’t leave office a failure. Merkel only bested Schroeder’s SPD in 2005 by a single percentage point, despite his government inflicting radical and painful welfare reforms. He left with a legacy, and that matters. Germany’s prosperity today can be traced in part back to Schroeder’s courage in office.

Hollande’s legacy will be the image of him on a scooter visiting his mistress, looking like a randy Snoopy.

No De Gaulle he.

 
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The speech I’d like President-elect Macron to give*

Posted by Jason O on May 4, 2017 in European Union, Politics

Macron*Assuming he wins. I don’t take that for granted at all.

My fellow French citizens. You, my new employers:

Thank you  for the honour you have bestowed on me tonight. This has been an extraordinary election, and has one clear message that has come through tonight from virtually every voter, regardless of whom they voted for.

The French want change.

I am acutely aware that many of you, of right, centre and left did not as much give me your votes as lend them to me.

I understand that. I will not forget that.

It is, as I said, a precious honour that I will treasure with humility.

Our nation faces huge challenges, from the maintaining of economic dignity of our people, to our security from extremists, to our place in the world.

Change is coming at a speed never witnessed before in living memory. The challenges of technological change, of migration, of climate change are all titanic.

Yet this is not a nation of weakness. We are not a people with nothing to offer. We live in the most beautiful country in the world. We produce the greatest food. We build the greatest airliners. Our culture from our language to our movies to our art to our fashion to our literature are those of a superpower. We put nuclear aircraft carriers to sea. Our fighters bomb ISIS. Al Quaeda in Mali did not see a defeated or feeble nation: they flee in terror as our foreign legion liberates the people of that friendly nation.

France is not on its knees. We do not lack strength. What we need now is courage. To not fear change, not be hijacked by it, but to seize it and make it our weapon to do what we want. 

The solutions to our problems will not come from just the left or right. This election has shown that a good idea must be respected as such, regardless of which party or candidate suggests it first. I intend to assemble a government of all France, of all talents, of all generations of the French.

I campaigned in favour of free trade and free markets. But also that both must deliver their benefits first to the people. 

As France must change, so must Europe. I believe in Europe and its unity as a community of sovereign nations, cooperating on our shared values. But also recognizing that Brussels is the servant of the people, not the master.

They work for us, not the other way.

Both Brussels and the markets, like every good dog, may occasionally need a tap on the nose with a rolled up newspaper to remind them whose house it is that they live in.

We must show generosity to those fleeing war whilst ensuring that we control our borders. To those who see France as a great nation of which they wish to be part of, and who wish to share our values, to you I say you are welcome. You can be a good Frenchman and a good Jew. A good Muslim. A good Christian. A good atheist.

But to those who wish to come to our land and impose other values, the values of the extremist, I say to you: keep walking. This country and this continent are not for you.

And let me be very clear: if the security of the borders of France and Europe require taking action, be it military or humanitarian, outside the continent, so be it. This country will not be found wanting.   

My fellow citizens: some recently spoke of Making France Great Again. 

France is great. France is strong. France is courageous.

France does not fear the night. France makes the day.

Long live the republic.   

 
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A free eNovella about the future of Europe: Fulcrum

Posted by Jason O on Apr 30, 2017 in Books, eNovels & Writing, European Union, Writing

Fulcrum

Europe. The near future.

The Russian invasion of Europe has been defeated.

An EU safezone holds millions of refugees in North Africa.

In Brussels, a woman directs the continent.

To some she is a saviour.

To others a tyrant.

To one man, a target.

You can download a PDF of “Fulcum” below. Enjoy!

Fulcrum eNovella

 

 
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Europe needs to be an elephant.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 24, 2017 in European Union

LondonWe all know how we feel about the attack on London. Like Nice, Paris, London, Madrid, Brussels, Ankara, there’s the temptation to lash out. Bomb them into the stone age. Wipe ‘em out. Kill ‘em all. #stopislam.

But we also know that’s not the solution, because it won’t work and it isn’t who we are.

We can scrap Schengen, close our borders, tag Muslims, waterboard suspects, drone strike suspects in the Middle East. It might make us feel better, but even just for a little while. Then we watch Muslim children on our streets, fear in their eyes, their parents telling them that they’re hated, other children not wanting to play with them.

That’s not the Europe I want to live in, nor do I want these bastards to decide what sort of continent Europe will be.

This fascist death cult that attacks our cities is small, flexible, and yes, has some support amongst Muslim communities. But the way to fight it is through intelligence, surveillance, cross-border cooperation, rapid response and hand-in-hand with moderate European Muslims who regard these guys with as much disdain as non-Muslims. Well-resourced, targeted, nuanced. We could start by ensuring that there are EU resources available to EU countries like Belgium who are struggling to contain the internal threat. Maybe it is time for Europol to get teeth, to become not Europe’s FBI but its MI5.

I remember being in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s when many didn’t see a difference between being Irish and being a terrorist. Treating me as a potential terrorist would not have made me more anti-terrorist, but would have pushed me towards the terrorists. The British discovered this in Northern Ireland. Having said that, it’s time to take a hardline on Europeans who go to fight for radical Islam and also on (particularly) Saudi funding of conservative Madrassas in Europe. Neither should be welcome in Europe.

Finally, and this sounds counter-intuitive, but Europe should shake off these attacks as mere pinpricks on an elephant. We’re 500 million people. They’re never going to defeat us, no matter how many attacks they carry out. Instead, they want to provoke us into overreacting against Islam. That’s their aim. They want us to be less tolerant, less open, less European.

Let them go to hell. To quote Father Damo from “Father Ted”, perhaps unusually in these dark days, but relevant all the same: They’re not the boss of us.

 
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A few awkward points about fighting terrorism.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 22, 2017 in European Union

France_antisemitism_150629_900_LT-810x539There are events that one wants to write about but finds that one has said what one wanted to say before. Because these things keep f**king happening.

Repost.

We’re living in scary times, with what feels like almost daily attacks across Europe. Let’s just take a breath and consider a few things:

1. IS “claiming” ownership of attacks is like one of those countries (you know who I’m talking about) which claims a successful actor/athlete as one of theirs, and then when he/she flops suddenly disowns them. Most of these attacks are franchise attacks, often claimed after the attacker has been killed. Most are not part of a conspiracy.

2. Beware of politicians who are as much obsessed with being seeing to do something as actually doing something. If Sarko, for example, had to choose between putting troops on the streets, or spending those funds on a less public but more effective method of dealing with terrorism, I suspect he’d go with the former. It’s funny, by the way, how politicians who bang on about the niceties of human rights laws suddenly get very legalistic when being investigated themselves on corruption charges.

3. The public need to be wary of putting too much emphasis on visible forms of fighting terrorism. Consider this: if France wanted to put two armed soldiers within running distance of every 150 of its’ citizens, say on every village main street or every two urban streets, on a three shift basis, that’s 2.6m soldiers. That’s not including logistical support, extra guards for public places, synagogues, churches (and soon mosques, wait and see) or indeed the army actually defending France from external threats. Of course, France has large police forces too, but the figures and costs are huge and would means cuts in other public services. In short, you’re letting a few hundred nuts radically transform your society.

4. Terrorism comes in two forms, random and planned. Planned is defeated by intelligence, and random by quick response. We need small, fast and smart responses. Europe needs an MI5/GCHQ, a well-resourced clearing house and surveillance support to assist the smaller countries like Belgium.

5. Is mental illness playing as significant a role in some of these attacks as ideology? Either way, the public must be protected. But let’s not see a conspiracy where it isn’t.

6. Having said that, is it time for a defined set of European values, offending against which is a criminal offence in itself? It would be a big step against freedom of speech, although not that big on the continent where Holocaust denial is a criminal offence. People say there is no such thing as a European demos. I suspect these attacks are helping create one. When Paris or Brussels was attacked, most of us don’t see it as an attack on France or Belgium, as an attack on THEM. It’s an attack on us.

7. There is an issue about minority exclusion. Surely recruiting police and security agents from the suburbs of Paris makes more sense than randomly bombing things in Iraq/Syria?

8. Muslims have died both fighting these terrorists and being killed by them. This continent knows all about pointing at one faith and saying “get rid of them and our problems go away.” No. just, no.

9. If you were IS, turning the majority of Europeans against ordinary Muslims must be amongst your highest priorities. Ask the Catholics of the north of Ireland how internment helped recruit IRA sympathisers.

10. What the hell are we doing letting the Saudis fund mosques and schools in Europe for?

11. I remain convinced that Europe needs to create a safe off-shore buffer zone where refugees can be processed and where those refugees who show an unwillingness to conform to European values be prevented from reaching the EU itself. I’m not talking about an Australian style detention centre though: I’m talking about building a little piece of Europe away from Europe. Given the disastrous impact terrorism has had on tourism in North Africa, it might not be impossible for the EU to lease a chunk of land for such a purpose.

12. We need to keep an eye on the far-right too. Far-right terrorism will make an appearance soon, and is as much a threat to European values as religious extremism.

 
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For the world, and for itself, Europe must act its size.

Posted by Jason O on Jan 29, 2017 in Brexit Referendum, British Politics, European Union, US Politics

political-map-of-europe-lgIn the United States cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Northern France, the bodies of over 9000 US servicemen rest. Over 9000 Americans who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy and elsewhere to free Europe from the shackles of Nazism. It is not an exaggeration to say that without their sacrifice, Western Europe would not know the 71 years of freedom it has enjoyed since the war.

The United States is not our enemy, nor should it ever be. The common values and the common history of the Atlantic, of Europe and America, mean too much.

But the election of the current President of the United States puts unique challenges in the path of Europe. From the defence of our Eastern most nations, to the securing of our southern borders, to our relations with Islam, to the defence of free trade and the prosperity it generates, these challenges throw a gauntlet down before this generation of Europeans and our leaders.

We are not some feeble minor nation. We are 450 million of the richest people on Earth, with some of the most powerful industries on the planet. We own one of the greatest common markets in human history. We build ships and cars and planes and aircraft carriers and yes, even nuclear weapons. We grow the finest foods on the planet, in vast quantities. We have the most beautiful cities in the world.

We are, in terms of spending, the second great military power on the planet if but we choose to recognize it.

And we are the greatest home on the planet to freedom, to tolerance, to diversity. We do not recognize torture. We do not execute our people. We do not boast of how many of our people we jail. We believe healthcare is a human right, not a privilege.

We are not perfect. Among us are extremists, both religious and political, including those who seek to deny the hateful crimes of the past against the Jewish people and others. But there is a majority across our continent which stands fast against those demons of both our past and our present, ready to fight, at the polling booth, on the streets.

Those demons, they shall not pass.

There are those who say there is no such thing as a European demos. That you can not build a united Europe because Europeans do not share a common history or common values.

The current incumbents of the Kremlin and the White House have disproved that. Europeans of the right and left have looked on in recent times and agreed that there is an alternative to a nationalism built on suspicion and fear. That love of one’s homeland does not automatically indicate fear of another.

Look at the response of Europeans to the attacks in Paris and Brussels and Madrid and Berlin. We did not treat those attacks as outrages in strange distant lands. They were attacks on us all, on our ways.

That is what unites Europeans. That I can walk the beautiful streets of Barcelona or Paris or Milano and know that an attack on them is an attack on my values too.

This is not a call for an identikit single nation called Europe. We are sovereign proud nations, proud of our flags and our history.

History has thought us that the defence of that sovereignty will come from the sharing of tasks and resources to magnify the power of all.

It’s time for us to recognize that the great nation to our east only respects strength, and that the great nation to our west is in a time of great insular strain. Given those realities, Europe must act decisively to secure its own interest and speak with strength in defence of our values.

We must build a European Defence Force, made up of volunteers, with the clear objective of pooling enough existing resources to get the increased capability we need to secure our borders east and south.

We must establish, in Northern Africa or elsewhere, an EU run refugee safezone to provide shelter for anyone fleeing oppression, and allowing us to restore full control of our continental borders. No more can we let our despotic neighbours use refugees as a boot with which to press on our throat.

We, as one of the three great economic powers, should enter immediate negotiations to create an Atlantic free trade area. Unlike others, we can negotiate with the United States as an economic equal, because we are. We should do so, but only as an equal.

These great projects are as much an act of self interest of the nations of free Europe as a pursuit of noble ideals. But both roads lead to the same destination. A strong Europe as the tool of its sovereign nations, putting our values at the table of nations.

In the words of that great European, Winston Churchill: Let Europe arise. 

Copyright © 2017 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.