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Pro-#Putin alliance to shape the future of Europe?



Were the European Parliament elections a referendum on attitudes towards Putin? Now that the European Parliament elections have been completed, a question arises: how will their results change the face of the European Parliament? The fact that many centrists and social-democrats (with their moderate views and agendas), who dominated the parliament for the last term, have lost their positions and no longer represent the parliamentary majority, indicates that there will be real change, writes Henry St. George.

By contrast the eurosceptic parties and right wing populists have been steadily gaining support with ordinary Europeans year by year and this election saw them increase their representation by over 30 seats. They are followed by alternative actors, such as environmentalists, who came sixth at the previous elections and now are among the top four major European political groups. With a record-breaking voter turnout of over 50 percent, a very fragmented European Parliament has been formed.

The reasons for this are quite clear. The elections were held at a time when frustration has taken over voter interest in Europe, dismayed by a downturn in stability and prosperity. Institutional chaos, the failure of migration policy, and a macroeconomic model that is inefficient for most of the EU member states have turned into deep fault lines, causing the continent of European solidarity to crack and triggering a decline in confidence for the future. This has dangerously increased the popularity of the "new right”, and we need no reminder of what happened when a similar trend and the collapse of the liberal model in the 1920s and 1930s brought the world into sharp conflict. Driving against the mainstream, these "new right" political forces have picked up on the theme of "understanding Putin", which was unintentionally delivered to them by other European politicians.

Suffice it to say that the outgoing European Parliament has always been at the forefront of anti-Russian rhetoric: on Crimea and Ukraine, on support for Assad, on alleged Russian intervention in the US or EU elections. Working hard to protect European citizens against the destructive information policies of the Kremlin, the European Parliament even approved additional funding for the East StratCom Task Force to coach European diplomats in the art of monitoring Russian propaganda, and identifying "unreliable" politicians who dared to refrain from criticising Putin.

Here is how it all worked out. The European Alliance for People and Nations forged specifically for the elections (convincing victory in Italy, with 34% of the votes) with Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini as its informal leader, together with its political allies from Marine Le Pen's National Front (victory in France, with 23% of the votes), British Eurosceptic Nigel Farage's Brexit party (victory in Great Britain, with more than 31% of the votes), Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party (overwhelming victory, with 56% of the votes), the Austrian and Dutch Freedom Parties, the increasingly popular Alternative for Germany party (AfD), supported by nationalists from Belgium, Denmark and Finland, are all now well positioned to unite behind an "ideological revolution" in the heart of Europe.

Putin's Russia can only benefit from this. We are talking about the very same Putin whose portrait was on Salvini's T-shirt during a session of the European Parliament. The same Putin who has been praised by Marine Le Pen for his foreign policy stance in the face of enormous pressure from Western countries. The leader whom German AfD MPs that visited Crimea believe to be a guarantor of security for all Europe. The President who meets with Sebastian Kurz and Viktor Orban to conclude long-term government contracts on gas supplies and the construction of new nuclear power stations. The man to whom Bulgarian President Rumen Radev admitted that Bulgaria had made a huge mistake in yielding to EU pressure and discontinuing the construction of South Stream. The same Putin together with whom President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic speaks in Russian, expressing hope that anti-Russian sanctions will be lifted as soon as possible.

Are we to believe that the hard-nosed Eurosceptics love Russia out of spite, or rather for its ability to supply Europe with cheap fuel and willingness to reopen its market, so attractive for European businessmen of all colours (from the car industry to agriculture)? All this goes well with their populist programmes. But that's not enough. The truth is that Putin has become a symbol of the "conservative resistance". The main trump card of his leadership is an alternative future. That is why Putin's realpolitik, which combines sovereignty and conservatism with a touch of cold-minded northern determination, has long been admired - and not only outside Europe.

Putin is also surprisingly and dangerously relevant for the average middle-class European, who is not used to seeing the EU being constantly thrown into disarray by financial problems, budget deficit, mass migration, religious conflicts and an increase in terrorist attacks across major cities and small towns. Is there a subconscious affection for Putin with people who feel the Freudian need for a strong leader to respect the interests of common citizens rather than bankers and tycoons, a leader who will preserve stability, high levels of consumption and social protection defending them against a globalist agenda?

Is there a fundamental need for a leader who will take care of the traditional values and lifestyle of Europeans at a time when they are losing their cultural and national identities?

In an attempt to fill this perceived gap, the European right-wing opposition will apparently try to follow a Putin-style political agenda.

Is it too far-fetched to imagine in the current populist political climate in Europe that if the EU were to hold a general election for the President of the European Council, the most popular European leader likely to be elected in the first round, (if by some strange twist of fate he were ever to find himself on the list of candidates,) and by a significant majority - would be Vladimir P


MEPs to grill Frontex director on agency’s role in pushbacks of asylum-seekers



The European Parliament will grill Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri on allegations of the involvement of the agency’s staff in illegal pushbacks of asylum-seekers by the Greek border guard will be the focus of a debate in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday.

MEPs are set to demand answers from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s Executive Director regarding the incidents in which Greek coastguards are alleged to have stopped migrants trying to reach EU shores and sent them back to Turkish waters. They are likely to ask about the outcome of the internal inquiry carried out by the EU’s border agency and the board meeting called at the request of the European Commission.

Last October, ahead of media revelations, the Frontex consultative forum - which gathers, among others, representatives of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), UNHCR, the Council of Europe and IOM- voiced concerns in its annual report. The forum pointed to the absence of an effective monitoring system of potential fundamental rights violations in the Agency’s activities.

On 6 July, in another Civil Liberties Committee meeting, Fabrice Leggeri assured MEPs that Frontex staff had not been involved in any pushbacks and described an incident with the Danish crew onboard one of the agency’s vessels as “a misunderstanding”.

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Soros calls for EU to issue ‘perpetual bonds’ through enhanced cooperation



In an opinion piece in Project Syndicate, George Soros outlined his idea of how the current impasse with Poland and Hungary over rule of law conditionality can be surmounted. 

Soros attributes Hungary’s veto of the EU budget and COVID-19 recovery fund to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s concerns that the EU’s new rule of law conditionality linked to the budget would “impose practical limits on his personal and political corruption [...] He [Orbán] is so worried that he has concluded a binding cooperation agreement with Poland, dragging that country down with him”.

Soros says the “enhanced cooperation” procedure introduced in the Lisbon Treaty to “provide a legal basis for further eurozone integration” could be used. 

Enhanced cooperation allows a group of at least nine nations to implement measures if all member states fail to reach agreement, other countries can join later if they want. The procedure is designed to overcome paralysis. Soros argues that a “sub-group of member states” could set a budget and agree on a way to fund it – such as through a “joint bond”.

Soros has previously argued that the EU should issue perpetual bonds, but now regards this as impossible, “because of a lack of faith among investors that the EU will survive.” He says these bonds would be “readily accepted by long-term investors such as life-insurance companies”. 

Soros also places some of the blame at the door of the so-called Frugal Five (Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) who are “more interested in saving money than in contributing to the common good”. 

Italy, according to Soros, needs the benefits from perpetual bonds more than other countries, but “is not fortunate enough” to be able to issue them in its own name. It would be a “wonderful gesture of solidarity”, adding that Italy is also the EU’s third largest economy: “Where would the EU be without Italy?” 

Providing health care and resuscitating the economy, says Soros, will require much more than the €1.8 trillion ($2.2 trillion) earmarked in the new Next Generation EU budget and recovery fund.

George Soros is Chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Foundations. A pioneer of the hedge-fund industry, he is the author of The Alchemy of Finance, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means, and, most recently, In Defense of Open Society.

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EU/US agreement will reassert the co-operation of open societies



Today (30 November) ambassadors will gather in Brussels to prepare for next week’s Foreign Affairs Council and European Council of heads of government. Top of the list will be the future of EU/US relations.

The discussions will focus on five building blocks: Fighting the COVID-19; enhancing economic recovery; combatting climate change; upholding multilateralism; and, promoting peace and security. 

A strategy paper places the emphasis on the cooperation of open democratic societies and market economies, as a way of addressing the strategic challenge presented by China's growing international assertiveness.

The European Council president Charles Michel will be consulting with leaders over the next week and will also coordinate with NATO to plan a summit in the first half of 2021.

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