NPC Hessick & Son Coal Co. Washington 1925
In der Not ist der Mittelweg der Tod
“If you were to ask Americans about austerity, we most likely would think you meant personal sacrifice..”
• Americans Live With The Austerity Europeans Are So Concerned About (Guardian)
In 1931, James Truslow Adams, an investment banker turned Pulitzer-winning historian, wrote a book to name an idea that had been floating around since before the United States was a country. In his book, The Epic of America, Adams coined the “American Dream,” defining it as a notion “of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable.” The European upper class, he wrote, would not understand. The dream says that if you work hard enough, you can make it in the US, and it is a damnable idea if ever there was one. The dream has allowed us to ignore that our social safety net has been shredded into cobwebs, because the dream tells us that if we work hard enough, we won’t ever need a net.
And that entirely obscures reality. Stories about austerity measures in the EU don’t get much attention in the States, mainly because austerity is already our reality. Our safety net is knit together by charities and faith groups which do the work that government could more easily and efficiently accomplish. We ignore the reality that so many of our fellow citizens aren’t making it – and we ignore that the opportunity for social mobility is greater in other countries than it is here. Through the rose-colored glasses of the American Dream, the people who are falling short simply Are Not Trying Hard Enough. They’ve Earned Their Low Rung On the Ladder. Oh, and: They Are Sucking The Rest Of Us Dry.
That’s by no means the attitude of everyone, but a significant portion of our conservatives (Hello, House Speaker John Boehner. See me waving?) would have us believe that your station in life is entirely of your own making, which is nonsense. If you were to ask Americans about austerity, we most likely would think you meant personal sacrifice, and we’re not having any of that, either. Back in 1977, our then-President Jimmy Carter appeared on television in a sweater to deliver what he called an “unpleasant talk” to urge Americans to do the radical thing and turn down their thermostats. His talk was not well-received; he was not re-elected.
It’s a simple corporate coup d’état.
• TiSA, TPP and TTIP Will Sideline National Laws, Wikileaks Says (Independent)
Wikileaks has warned that governments negotiating a far-reaching global service agreement are ‘surrendering a large part of their global sovereignty’ and exacerbating the social inequality of poorer countries in the process. The Trade in Services Agreement exposed in a 17 document dump by Wikileaks on Thursday relates to ongoing negotiations to lock market liberalisations into global law. If a country like China wanted to join, it would have to scrap all discriminatory practices against foreign firms – so discrimination against a foreign firm opening a hospital in China would be banned, for example. Under the agreement, retailers like Zara or Marks & Spencers would have the right to open stores in any of the signing countries and be treated like domestic companies.
A nationalised service, such as the British telecoms industry in the eighties, would have to ensure it was not harming competition under these terms. “Nothing it will do to extend the liberalisation but it locks in those rules in case of a coup d’etat,” Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, director of European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) and a leading author on trade diplomacy, told The Independent. However he said that fears the trade agreements will lead to the dismantling of the NHS are unfounded. “Do people really think that countries far more progressive than UK (EU countries like France, Germany or Sweden) would ever accept something that threatens their social welfare model? Do people really believe that Obama would put Obamacare up for negotiation?” Lee-Makiyama said.
“TiSA protects the right of big money players to make a profit from “services..”
• Fast-Tracking the TPP-TiSA-TTIP Trinity (Gaius Publius)
Fast Track is not just a path to TPP … it’s evil all on its own. There’s now another leaked “trade” deal, called TISA, and Fast Track will “fast-track” that one too. Want your municipal water service privatized? How about your government postal service? Read on. Most of the coverage of the Fast Track bill (formally called “Trade Promotion Authority” or TPA) moving through Congress is about how it will “grease the skids” for passage of TPP, the “next NAFTA” trade deal with 11 other Pacific rim countries. But as we pointed out here, TPA will grease the skids for anything the President sends to Congress as a “trade” bill — anything. One of the “trade” deals being negotiated now, which only the wonks have heard about, is called TISA, or Trade In Services Agreement. Fast Track legislation, if approved, will grease the TISA skids as well.
Why do you care? Because (a) TISA is also being negotiated in secret, like TPP; (b) TISA chapters have been recently leaked by Wikileaks; and (c) what’s revealed in those chapters should have Congress shutting the door on Fast Track faster and tighter than you’d shut the door on an invading army of rats headed for your apartment. Congress won’t shut that door on its own — the rats in this metaphor have bought most of its members — but it should. So it falls to us to force them. Stop Fast Track and you stop all these “trade” deals. (Joseph Stiglitz will explain below why I keep putting “trade” in quotes.) What’s TISA? It’s worse than TPP. As you read the following, keep the word “services” in mind. TISA protects the right of big money players to make a profit from “services,” any and all of them.
How many leading European parties even have 45%?
• Syriza Holds Firm in Polls at 45%, Eight in 10 Still Want Euro (Kathimerini)
An opinion poll published over the weekend showed Syriza holding a strong lead of 23.6% over New Democracy, while eight in 10 Greeks said they wanted to remain in the eurozone. According to the poll by Metron Analysis, if elections were held now, 45% of Greeks would vote for Syriza and 21.4% for ND. Such a result would allow Syriza, which co-governs with the right-wing Independent Greeks, to rule autonomously. Potami garnered 6.1%, followed by Golden Dawn on 4.4%, the Communist Party with 4.3%, ANEL with 3.2% and PASOK falling below the 3% threshold to enter Parliament with 2.9%. The survey found that 79% of Greeks want to stay in the eurozone. Nearly half (47%) said Greece should accept a proposal by creditors to secure loans, with 35% saying it should rebuff the plan. A total of 59% said they were satisfied with the government’s style of negotiation.
Europe must get serious. They can’t afford to let the mess get bigger. But they don’t realize that.
• Varoufakis Urges Debt Relief After Tsipras Says Greece Deal Near (Bloomberg)
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis rejected the latest proposal from his country’s creditors and urged them to instead consider debt relief. “As finance minister, I’ll refuse to put my signature on a deal” such as the one that’s being proposed, Varoufakis told Proto Thema newspaper. “We will not sign a deal that extends this self-feeding crisis of the last five years.” His comments come a day after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras decried the “clearly unrealistic” demands being made, even as he said the two sides were closer to a deal. A Greek plan, submitted about the same time, is still on the table and awaiting feedback, a Greek government official said by e-mail on Saturday, asking not to be identified in line with policy. [..]
Varoufakis said what was needed was “a debt restructuring that will make Greek debt sustainable, without a cost for the creditors.” He said cutting pensions was “not a reform” and what is instead needed is an investment plan. Frustration is growing. After listening to Tsipras address lawmakers on Friday night, Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said he wondered “whether this is the same Tsipras who was in Brussels and Berlin this week.” Kazimir, who commented on his social media account, said “debt restructuring is not on the table.” In a sign of how little maneuvering room there is, Greece on Thursday notified the IMF that a €300 million payment due Friday would be deferred and bundled with three more payments at the end of June. [..]
“Tsipras has his back against the wall,” said Miranda Xafa, a former Greek representative to the IMF who runs a consultancy in Athens. “If a deal is not reached next week, in time for parliamentary approval of the deal, we are staring at disorderly default, deposit withdrawals, capital controls, and social unrest. I think a deal is in the making.” Tsipras on Friday said voters are urging the government to not “succumb to the irrational, blackmailing demands of our creditors.” Even with those comments, he said Greece is “closer to a deal than ever before.” “I’m sure that in the coming days our realistic and consistent position will be vindicated,” he said.
Putin must be stunned at what Brussels is doing.
• Putin: Speculation On Grexit Is Counterproductive (Kathimerini)
Greece has the sovereign right to decide which unions and zones it wishes to be a member of, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian daily Corriere della Sera. In an interview published on Saturday, Putin highlighted the historically close ties and good partnership between his country and Greece. He added that Russia was developing its relationship with the country “independently of whether Greece is a member of the European Union, NATO or the eurozone.”
On the subject of whether or not Russia would be willing to assist Greece on both a political and a financial level in case of a possible eurozone exit, Putin noted that trying to guess the future would be a mistake as well as “counterproductive for both the European and the Greek economies.” The Russian president’s comments on Greece followed a discussion via telephone with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday during which the two leaders talked about cooperation in the energy sector. The two men also agreed to meet in Saint Petersburg during a business conference scheduled to take place in Russian’s second-largest city on June 18 to 20.
Vast differences still linger. And Syriza has no room to give in.
• Key Points On Greek Ongoing Negotiations (Bruegel)
Greek negotiations will continue next week, after Greece asked to bundle all June IMF payments at the end of the month. In the meantime, the finding of a common ground between Greece and its creditors is not yet in sight. The primary surplus issue is where positions seem to have converged the most, with the creditors moving significantly closer to the Greek position. On the VAT, the Greek government appears to have taken a U-turn compared to the proposals rumoured last month and positions on pensions and labour market remain still very far apart, with no immediate solution evident from the documents.
The negotiations over next week will be further complicated by the fact that the Greek proposal includes a section on the restructuring of its debt vis-à-vis the creditors. The details of the plan have been clarified in another leaked paper, which was published by the FT this morning. Many of the restructuring elements had been hinted at or heard before, during these months of negotiations: the plan would include (i) a buyback of the debt owed to the ECB with a ESM loan; (ii) IMF partial buyback with SMP profits; (iii) additional re profiling of the Greek Loan Facility; (iv) splitting EFSF loans in two and substitute half with a perpetuity.
None of these seems to be politically acceptable at the moment: IMF has previously appeared in favor of debt relief, provided it is done on the EU side of Greek debt; the GLF and EFSF terms have already been eased substantially and the perpetuity idea looks hardly digestible in Berlin; the ECB president Mario Draghi said yesterday that the ECB expects timely and full repayment of the SMP; and political support for the ECB/ESM swap idea looks elusive. Given the postponement of IMF payments, the hard deadline becomes the redemption of debt due to the ECB in July. But for the agreement to be signed off nationally and money to be disbursed on time, a deal should be reached sooner. Time is running out, and options would start to look scarce, even to the most resourceful Ulysses.
Chances of a parallel currency in Greece are rising fast: “..a source of liquidity for the governments that is outside the bond markets, does not involve the banks and lies outside any of the restrictions..”
• The Economics Of Parallel Currencies (Bruegel)
What’s at stake: As Greece faces a severe shortage of euros, the idea of introducing a parallel currency used for some domestic transactions – while keeping the euro in place for existing bank deposits and for foreign transactions – has made a comeback. Although historical examples of parallel currencies exist, the analysis of the idea remains in its infancy. It remains unclear whether and how one could find the right mechanics. Biagio Bossone and Marco Cattaneo write that according to several recent media reports, both the Greek government and the ECB are taking into consideration the possibility (for Greece) to issue a parallel domestic currency to pay for government expenditures, including civil servant salaries, pensions, etc. This could happen in the coming weeks as Greece faces a severe shortage of euros. A new domestic currency would help make payments to public employees and pensioners while freeing up the euros needed to pay out creditors.
Ludwig Schuster writes that at the present time, we are talking about around thirty recent proposals calling for a parallel currency in the eurozone, and these have been coming from very different backgrounds. While specific proposals have been mentioned now and again in the media, the response has been barely discernible. Ludwig Schuster writes that the idea of parallel currencies was discussed before the creation of the euro. It was, for example, proposed to first introduce the euro complementary to the national currencies, to soften the transition to complete integration. As we now know, the political decision-makers went down a different path. Similarly, following reunification, the German Federal Government decided to take the Ostmark out of circulation after introducing the Deutschmark instead of keeping it as a secondary currency during a transition phase (the then Minister of Finance, Oskar Lafontaine, was unable to gain support for this idea).
John Cochrane writes that in modern financial markets, a country doesn’t even need the right to print money in order to, well, print money! Bonds are money these days. Greece can print up small-denomination zero-coupon bearer bonds, essentially IOUs. Gavyn Davies writes these IOUs would not formally be given the status of legal tender, since this is explicitly against the terms of the treaties. Yanis Varousfakis writes that the great advantage of such schemes is that it creates a source of liquidity for the governments that is outside the bond markets, does not involve the banks and lies outside any of the restrictions imposed by European institutions. Biagio Bossone and Marco Cattaneo write that the introduction of a Greek parallel currency could take place in at least two ways. The first avenue would be for Greece to issue IOUs, i.e., promises to pay to the bearer euros upon a future time expiration. Basically, these IOUs would be euro denominated debt obligations issued and used to replace euros to pay salaries, pensions, etc.
17.000 police to protect 7 ‘leaders’…
• Greece And Ukraine Crises Drown Out G7 Summit Agenda (Reuters)
Leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) industrial nations meet on Sunday in the Bavarian Alps for a summit overshadowed by Greece’s debt crisis and ongoing violence in Ukraine. Host Angela Merkel is hoping to secure commitments from her G7 guests to tackle global warming to build momentum in the run-up to a major United Nations climate summit in Paris in December. The German agenda also foresees discussions on global health issues, from Ebola to antibiotics and tropical diseases. But on the evening before the German chancellor welcomes the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the United States, she and French President Francois Hollande were forced into their fourth emergency phone call in 10 days with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to try to break a deadlock between Athens and its international creditors.
The two sides have been wrangling for months over the terms of a cash-for-reform deal for Greece. Without aid from euro zone partners and the IMF, Greece could default on its loans within weeks, possibly forcing it out of the currency bloc. An upsurge of violence in eastern Ukraine will also play a prominent role at the meeting at Schloss Elmau, a luxury hotel perched in the picturesque mountains of southern Germany near the Austrian border. European monitors have blamed the bloodshed on Russian-backed separatists and the leaders could decide at the summit to send a strong message to President Vladimir Putin, who was frozen out of what used to be the G8 after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year.
Ahead of the gathering, thousands of anti-G7 protesters marched in the nearby town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Saturday. There were sporadic clashes with police and several marchers were taken to hospital with injuries, but the violence was minor compared to some previous summits. The Germans have deployed 17,000 police around the former winter Olympic games venue at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Another 2,000 are on stand-by across the border in Austria.
Arguably, the TTP et al treaties will end this too.
• The Growth Of The State-Owned Trading Houses (Bloomberg)
When Azerbaijan’s Socar took over the storied commodity trader Phibro this year, it put a stamp on a new trend: the emergence of giant state enterprises to buy and sell natural resources. Azerbaijan is not alone: Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, Thailand and Russia are also building or expanding government-owned firms to procure and market commodities directly, bypassing the traditional oil and grain traders such as Glencore, Cargill, Vitol Group and Trafigura. “Countries want to secure the offtake of their production or they want to secure supplies,” Socar Trading Chief Executive Officer Arzu Azimov said in an interview. “There is a trend of national companies building trading arms. The new cadre of state trading houses has deep pockets and lofty ambitions.
They have built their capabilities through acquisitions and rapid organic growth, often poaching executives from U.S. and European competitors to do it. And over time, they could damage the business model of the current dominant groups. “The growth of the state-owned traders is making it harder for the established houses,” said Andrew Montague-Fuller, director of energy consultants Molten Group. Socar purchased the remnants of Phibro in March. The U.S. firm, which once owned investment bank Salomon Brothers and dominated commodity markets for most of the past century, had been scaling back for a decade.
Commodity houses serve as the middlemen of global trade, controlling the flow of fuels, grains and metals between groups such as Exxon Mobil and FedEx or coffee farmers in Africa and Nestle. Executives from non-state traders have given a guarded welcome to the new entities. “State-owned trading houses are a new source of competition and will undoubtedly change the market dynamics, but will also create opportunities and will be clients for trading firms,” said Pierre Lorinet, chief financial officer of Trafigura. That’s because the new houses don’t yet have the capacity to handle all aspects of trading. Yet the threat from large new rivals is obvious, with the state firms eating into the commodity flows of the traditional traders and enjoying privileged access to the natural resources of the countries that own them.
Who governs the nation, you said?
• Yellen Balks At Turning Over Files To Congress (AP)
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is balking at turning over some of the documents ordered by a key House lawmaker in his investigation of a possible leak of market-sensitive information. Yellen has told Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who heads the House Financial Services Committee, that she can’t provide some documents sought by his subpoena because doing so could jeopardize a criminal investigation by the Justice Department and the Fed’s watchdog inspector general. Yellen said the inspector general has told the Fed that the documents in question – which include records related to an earlier internal review by the Fed’s general counsel – should not be provided.
“The Federal Reserve is mindful that we must not impede that open criminal investigation,” Yellen wrote in a letter to Hensarling Thursday. The move escalated a months-long battle between the Fed chair and the lawmaker over an alleged leak in 2012 of interest-rate information to a financial newsletter. Hensarling, a vocal critic of the Fed, issued a subpoena to the central bank last month, saying it had repeatedly failed to adequately respond to the panel’s questions and requests for documents. He has said that his committee is trying to determine whether or not the Fed’s probe was dropped at the request of several members of its policymaking body.
The Fed told the committee in March that its own investigation found no evidence that sensitive information was deliberately leaked from the September 2012 interest-rate policy meeting. Any disclosure of information on Fed policymakers’ views appeared to have been “unintentional or careless” and did not contain details of policy proposals, the Fed concluded. An aide to Hensarling said the central bank has “not provided a valid legal justification for its failure to provide complete and adequate responses to the committee.” “The Fed once again is acting in a manner that can only be characterized as resistant to accountability, transparency and oversight,” Jeff Emerson, an aide to Hensarling, said in a statement.
Creating bigger losses.
• New Toys For Flash Boys In China’s Fledgling Derivatives Market (Reuters)
The rapid liberalization of Chinese derivatives markets has attracted a new breed of creative traders employing complex trading strategies that can generate quick profits – and an extra dollop of risk – in China’s runaway stock boom.
Brokerages and fund managers are investing in mathematics whizzes and hardware, and moving servers onto trading floors to gain precious microseconds dealing in new options and futures contracts, helping China’s CSI300 index become the world’s most traded equity futures contract in May. The introduction of new derivative products is intended to help investors hedge risk, but it also gives rise to the kind of sophisticated trading strategies that have made quick-trading “flash boys” notorious in the United States and Europe.
For the most part the strategies and the traders employing them are untested in China, where the derivatives market barely existed five years ago, and slick automated trading strategies can produce horrific crashes when they go wrong. “Currently, there are many hedging tools in the market, but liquidity and stability is still a problem the hedge fund industry needs to address,” Hong Lei, deputy head of China’s Asset Management Association, told an industry forum last month. “China’s market is highly inefficient, which means it’s relatively easy to produce absolute returns,” said Ken Zhu, Chairman and CEO of hedge fund firm Scientific Investment.
“..around 20% of employees in North America and Europe are “actively disengaged.”
• All the Happy Workers (Atlantic)
The end of capitalism has often been imagined as a crisis of epic proportions. Perhaps a financial crisis will occur that is so vast not even government finances can rescue the system. Maybe the rising anger of exploited individuals will gradually congeal into a political movement, leading to revolution. Might some single ecological disaster bring the system to a halt? Most optimistically, capitalism might be so innovative that it will eventually produce its own superior successor, through technological invention. But in the years that have followed the demise of state socialism in the early 1990s, a more lackluster possibility has arisen. What if the greatest threat to capitalism, at least in the liberal West, is simply lack of enthusiasm and activity? What if, rather than inciting violence or explicit refusal, contemporary capitalism is just met with a yawn?
From a political point of view, this would be somewhat disappointing. Yet it is no less of an obstacle for the longer-term viability of capitalism. Without a certain level of commitment on the part of employees, businesses run into some very tangible problems, which soon show up in their profits. This fear has gripped the imaginations of managers and policymakers in recent years, and not without reason. Various studies of employee engagement have highlighted the economic costs of allowing workers to become mentally withdrawn from their jobs. Gallup conducts frequent and wide-ranging studies in this area and has found that only 13% of the global workforce is properly “engaged,” while around 20% of employees in North America and Europe are “actively disengaged.” They estimate that active disengagement costs the U.S. economy as much as $550 billion a year.
Disengagement is believed to manifest itself in absenteeism, sickness and—sometimes more problematic—presenteeism, in which employees come into the office purely to be physically present. A Canadian study suggests over a quarter of workplace absence is due to general burnout, rather than sickness. Few private-sector managers are required to negotiate with unions any longer, but nearly all of them confront a much trickier challenge, of dealing with employees who are regularly absent, unmotivated, or suffering from persistent, low-level mental-health problems. Resistance to work no longer manifests itself in organized voice or outright refusal, but in diffuse forms of apathy and chronic health problems. The border separating general ennui from clinical mental-health problems is especially challenging to managers in 21st century workplaces, seeing as it requires them to ask personal questions on matters that they are largely unqualified to deal with.
And only now are people starting to look at where the money comes from that blows the bubbles.
• Dodgy Money-Laundering Housing Deals To Come Out In The Wash (NZ Herald)
The Government’s pre-Budget announcement of its two-year “bright line” tax on capital gains surprised a few people and captured headlines. But the accompanying news that non-residents buying property would first have to open a bank account here, get an IRD number and declare their own passport and home tax details may have a bigger impact. The Government is pointing to this measure as having the most potential to reduce foreign demand for Auckland properties and Prime Minister John Key has indicated information on non-resident buying would be gathered and published. He said New Zealand tax authorities would also share these details with foreign tax authorities.
The elephant in the room of Auckland’s property debate is whether some of the money pouring into Auckland, from China in particular, is money laundering of ill-gotten funds. Without any data, the debate is fuelled by anecdote and rumour, but the issue is capturing global attention. In November, China’s President Xi Jinping asked for Key’s help to track down a number of Chinese nationals who had fled to New Zealand with allegedly corruptly obtained funds. This was part of Xi’s campaign to crack down on the “tigers and flies” officials and their cronies. Chinese authorities say New Zealand is the third most popular destination for such fugitives. The issue of money laundering from China is heating up in Australia, too, where data on how much property is bought by non-residents is collected.
More than 25% of all new and existing homes sold last year in Sydney and Melbourne were sold to non-residents, leaving many across the Tasman asking where the money came from. The investments have sparked calls for tougher laws governing money laundering. This is where the money laundering issue becomes more topical and direct for New Zealanders, and in particular the real estate agents, solicitors and accountants who handle money flowing out of China and into New Zealand. New Zealand introduced anti-money laundering rules for banks, insurers, finance companies, share brokers, fund managers and even loan sharks in 2013 that requires them to ask tougher questions about who they open accounts for and where the money comes from.
What a dark tale.
• Canada Confronts Its Dark Of History Of Abuse (Guardian)
Sue Caribou contracts pneumonia once a year, like clockwork. The recurring illness stems from her childhood years at one of Canada’s horrific residential schools. “I was thrown into a cold shower every night, sometimes after being raped”, the frail 50-year-old indigenous mother of six said, matter-of-factly. Caribou was snatched from her parents’ house in 1972 by the state-funded, church-run Indian Residential School system that brutally attempted to assimilate native children for over a century. She was only seven years old. “We had to stand like soldiers while singing the national anthem, otherwise, we would be beaten up”, she recalled. Caribou said Catholic missionaries physically and sexually abused her until 1979 at the Guy Hill institution, in the east of the province of Manitoba.
She said she was called a “dog”, was forced to eat rotten vegetables and was forbidden to speak her native language of Cree. “I vowed to myself that if I ever get out alive of that horrible place, I would speak up and fight for our rights”, she said. Her voice and that of 150,000 other residential school pupils was finally heard across the nation this week as Canada faced one of the darkest chapters in its history. The head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), set up to examine the school system’s legacy, did not mince his words when he unveiled his landmark report. “Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide”, declared Justice Murray Sinclair to cries and applause of survivors in Ottawa.
Although prime minister Stephen Harper apologised for the school system in 2008 (as did the Roman Catholic Church in 2009), his government has always denied that it was a form of genocide. Many survivors who gathered in Ottawa felt empowered for the first time in their life after hearing findings of the six-year-long commission. It feels like our story is validated at last and is out there for the world to see”, said a tearful 58 year-old Cindy Tom-Lindley, who is executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivor Society in British Columbia. “We were too scared as children to speak out. So to give our testimonies to the commission was liberating and emotional.”
The west has only one, entirely fictional, narrative left.
• Russia ‘Never Viewed Europe As A Mistress’ – Putin (RT)
Russia has never sought a no-obligation kind of relationship with Europe, and has always called for a serious partnership, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview that touched on EU sanctions, energy disputes and severed business ties with Ukraine. “We have never viewed Europe as a mistress,” Putin told Il Corriere della Sera on the eve of his visit to Italy. “I am quite serious now. We have always proposed a serious relationship. But now I have the impression that Europe has actually been trying to establish material-based relations with us, and solely for its own gain.” Putin said the “deterioration in relations” between Moscow and the EU states was not Russia’s fault. “This was not our choice,” Putin said.
“It was dictated to us by our partners. It was not we who introduced restrictions on trade and economic activities. Rather, we were the target and we had to respond with retaliatory, protective measures.” The Russian president recalled the “notorious” Third Energy Package and Brussels’ denial of access for Russian nuclear energy products to the European market – despite all the existing agreements. The EU is also reluctant to acknowledge the legitimacy of Russia’s integration attempts on the territory of the former USSR, initially the Customs Union, which was later succeeded by the Eurasian Economic Union. “It is all right when integration takes place in Europe, but if we do the same in the territory of the former Soviet Union, they try to explain it by Russia’s desire to restore an empire,” Putin said. “I don’t understand the reasons for such an approach.”
“..in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war..”
• ‘Third World War is Being Fought Piecemeal’: Pope Francis (RT)
Pope Francis has attacked what he called “the atmosphere of war,” which he believes is hampering the world. He also attacked those profiteering from war and those engaging in arms sales, as he led a mass in Bosnia on Saturday. Francis received a joyous welcome from around 100,000 people who lined the streets of Sarajevo, Bosnia’s capital, as his motorcade made its way to the national stadium, where the pontiff celebrated mass for a mainly Catholic audience of around 65,000, speaking in Italian. Many conflicts across the planet amount to “a kind of Third World War being fought piecemeal and, in the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war,” the pontiff said, according to AFP.
“Some wish to incite and foment this atmosphere deliberately,” he added, attacking those who want to foster division for political ends or profit from war through arms dealing. “But war means children, women and the elderly in refugee camps; it means forced displacement, destroyed houses, streets and factories: above all countless shattered lives.” “You know this well having experienced it here,” he added, alluding to the wars that preceded the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Security was tight, with thousands of police officers lining the route taken by the pope. Shops and cafes were closed, while local residents were told not to open their windows or stand on their balconies. Just prior to the visit, Islamists claiming to be members of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) called for Muslims to take-up jihad in the Balkans.
Fiddling as they drown.
• Cameron, Merkel At Odds Over Plan To Settle Refugees Across Europe (Guardian)
David Cameron is set to clash with Angela Merkel at the G7 summit over her plans for a pan-EU distribution of the migrants coming across the Mediterranean from north Africa, with the British prime minister insistent that such measures will only encourage the traffickers. The German chancellor has said that finding a way forward on the migration crisis will be a priority during the two-day talks starting in Bavaria on Sunday. She has previously said there should be a new EU system that distributes asylum seekers to member states based on their population and economic strength. Merkel is expected to make further such calls in the days to come.
Downing Street, however, insists that it will not go along with any such plans. Government officials claim they would deal only with the symptoms and not the cause of the humanitarian disaster. One government official said: “The more the traffickers see that people are being resettled, the greater the incentive there is for them.” As part of his freshly announced agenda of tackling corruption, officials said Cameron would instead argue that attempts to dismantle the human trafficking networks should remain the focus, although the idea of an EU military force destroying boats in the Mediterranean has been rejected by the Libyan authorities. The prime minister of the government in Tripoli said recently that he was ready to repel any such action, likening it to the “colonial mentality” of the Italian occupiers of Libya last century.
A Downing Street source said talks with the authorities in Tripoli were ongoing, but would not be drawn on suggestions that the EU would go ahead without Libya’s approval. “We are not there yet,” the source said. However, Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, suggested that the government could not rely on Labour’s support if it sought to go ahead with such military plans. Benn told the Observer: “The movement of migrants across the Mediterranean has now reached crisis point. As we know, thousands of innocent people have died and hundreds of thousands of others have been put at risk.” But although he was clear traffickers were to blame, he said, it was essential that “any action taken to deal with that trade is backed by the UN security council, has clear rules of engagement and has the consent of the relevant Libyan authorities”.
500,000 people are reported to wait in Lybia to make the crossing.
• Over 2,000 Migrants Rescued In Mediterranean Saturday, More On The Way (Reuters)
More than 2,000 migrants were rescued from five wooden boats in the Mediterranean on Saturday and as many as seven other vessels have been reported at sea, the privately funded Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and Italy’s coastguard said. “MOAS coordinated the rescue of over 2,000 people together with Italian, Irish and Germany ships,” the group tweeted. The migrants were packed onto wooden fishing boats in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast. Italy’s coastguard, which coordinates sea rescue efforts in from Rome, could not confirm the number of migrants who had been saved so far, but said about a dozen different migrant boats had been reported and rescue operations were ongoing. “We have several assets at work,” a coastguard spokesman said.
During the first five months of the year, there were 46,500 sea arrivals in Italy, a 12% increase on the same period of last year, the UN refugee agency said. Italy’s government projects 200,000 will come this year, up from 170,000 in 2014. The summer months are usually the busiest period for departures because the calm seas make the crossing easier. This year growing anarchy in Libya – the last point on one of the main transit routes to Europe – is giving free hand to people smugglers who make an average of €80,000 from each boatload, according to an ongoing investigation by an Italian court. MOAS, which is operating a privately funded rescue operation with Doctors without Borders, said its Phoenix ship plucked 372 mostly Eritreans from one boat. The Italian navy said one of its ships was still trying to remove about 560 from a wooden boat, while another navy ship has finished rescuing 316 from yet another.
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