Romanian Official Resigns After Mass Protests

In Romania, the minister of business, trade and entrepreneurship Florin Jianu has resigned, after more than a quarter of a million people poured into the streets Wednesday to protest the government’s passing of an emergency ordinance decriminalizing official misconduct. The protests are the biggest in Romania since 1989.

— source democracynow.org

people are the rulers, but people must realize that.

Belgium to arrest former Israeli FM for “war crimes”

A Belgian court has ordered the arrest of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Tzipi Livni, when she steps off the plane on her arrival in the Belgian capital Brussels on 23 January, official EU sources revealed on Thursday. On 23 June 2010, a group of victims filed a complaint in Belgium to the Federal Prosecutor against certain Israeli civilian and military officials at the time, including Tzipi Livni, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian News Network (PNN).

— source middleeastmonitor.com

Apple, Brussels, and Ireland’s Bruised Sovereignty

Despite their unequivocal Europeanism, the Irish have been serially mistreated by the European Union.

When Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008, the EU forced them to vote again until they delivered the “right” outcome. A year later, when private Irish banks imploded, threatening their (mainly) German private creditors with severe losses, Jean-Claude Trichet, the European Central Bank’s then-president, immediately “informed” the Irish government that the ECB would shut down ATMs across the Emerald Isle unless Ireland’s unsuspecting taxpayers made the German banks whole.

Ireland acquiesced, its public debt ballooned, emigration returned, and the country remains bruised and despondent. With the EU still refusing meaningful reduction of a debt burden unfairly borne by the younger generation, the Irish remain convinced, correctly, that the EU violated their sovereignty on behalf of foreign bankers.

Ireland’s greatest weapon against the ensuing debt deflation was its ability to attract US-based tech giants, by offering them a combination of EU law, a well-trained English-speaking workforce, and a 12.5% corporate-tax rate. Though the shell-like subsidiaries of global tech conglomerates have little positive impact on most households’ income, Ireland’s establishment is proud of its links with the likes of Apple. Now, the European Commission is jeopardizing the government’s special relationship with Apple by demanding that it claw back €13 billion ($14.6 billion) in taxes from the company.

Is the Commission’s latest intervention another example of EU bullying, in violation of Ireland’s sovereignty? Comparing Trichet’s 2009 intervention and the current standoff over Apple holds important lessons beyond Ireland and, indeed, Europe.

In the eurozone’s early years, German financial institutions channeled a torrent of capital into Ireland’s commercial banks, which then lent it to real-estate developers. The ensuing property bubble resulted in white elephants in Dublin’s financial district, row upon row of new blocks of flats in the middle of nowhere, and a mountain of mortgage debt. When the bubble burst after 2008, land prices collapsed, debts went bad, and Ireland’s private banks failed.

The ECB, in an affront comparable to British behavior during the 1845-52 Potato Famine, instructed the government to invoke “financial stability” to force Ireland’s weakest citizens to repay every euro the defunct private banks owed to German creditors. Financial stability was obviously a smokescreen: taxpayers were forced to repay even the debts of a bank that had already been closed (and thus systemically irrelevant).

The roots of the Apple deal are older than the ECB. In 1980, a young Steve Jobs visited an Ireland eager to escape underdevelopment. Apple eventually created 6,000 jobs in the country, in exchange for a sweetheart tax deal allowing it to shield its European revenues from taxation by recording them there. To this day, the proceeds of every iPhone sold in Paris or in Stockholm (net of its Chinese assemblers’ production costs) go to Apple’s Irish subsidiary Apple Sales International. As a result of the original Apple-Ireland deal, ASI pays a miniscule tax on these earnings, effectively exempt from the ultra-low 12.5% corporate-tax rate.

This arrangement also required the usually vigilant US Internal Revenue Service to play along. ASI’s profits stem from Apple’s intellectual property (IP) rights, which are based on research and development conducted exclusively in the US (most of it underpinned by federal government funding). These profits should, therefore, be taxed in the US.

Curiously, the IRS is choosing not to enforce Apple’s obligation to pay tax on its profits from US-sourced IP returns. Instead, Apple charges ASI a symbolic fee for allowing it to profit from Apple’s IP rights, for which it pays a tiny tax to the IRS. Meanwhile, ASI is allowed to keep, in Ireland, profits representing close to two-thirds of the revenue from the sale of every Apple product sold outside the US. As a result, Apple has amassed untaxed cash reserves of up to $230 billion.

Unlike in 2009, the Irish government is protesting the EU authorities’ recent Apple ruling, pointing out that tax policy is in the purview of national governments, not the Union. And, in a recent joint letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the EU’s other 27 national governments, 185 American CEOs alleged that the EU had over-reached yet again, resulting in a “self-inflicted wound” for Ireland’s and Europe’s economy.

But they are wrong: Ireland’s sovereignty is not an issue here. Apple would not have based itself in Ireland were it not for the EU’s single market, a commons that requires common rules. One of these rules is that governments cannot offer aid to some companies that is not available to others.

Suppose, for example, that the Greek government, seeking to attract 6,000 jobs to its ravaged economy, offered Apple a subsidy of €110,000 per job per year, or €660 million. Over two decades, the total subsidy would come to slightly more than €13 billion. Were the EU to permit Greece to offer Apple such a deal, the other EU member states, including Ireland, would revolt.

Suppose further that the Greek government proposed waiving corporate tax for 20 years on all revenue Apple earned in the rest of the EU but booked in Athens – say, €13 billion. The European Commission would then have a duty of care to the European commons to demand that Greece immediately recoup that €13 billion – exactly as it is telling Ireland to do today.

Every time the EU acts as a colonial usurper, as it did in 2009, it undermines the legitimacy of its good and proper actions and strengthens the xenophobic, anti-European “Nationalist International.” Europe’s only beneficiaries, much to the delight of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, are isolationist Brexiteers, the far-right Alternative for Germany, France’s National Front, and illiberal governments in Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and elsewhere.

The lesson to be learned from comparing Trichet’s 2009 intervention with the European Commission’s current stance on Apple is simple: Europeans’ real enemy is free riding by the few on the backs of the many. Without common institutions, Europeans cannot be defended from the exploitation and anti-social practices that big business and its political agents portray as economic common sense.

Trichet compromised Ireland’s sovereignty to facilitate German bankers’ free ride on the shoulders of Ireland’s taxpayers. As restitution, the ECB should take on its books part of Ireland’s public debt. But the EU must not allow Ireland to abuse the European commons by offering Apple a deal that no other member state could. The right response to past injustices is to recover sovereignty in a Europe where the powerful – whether German bankers or American smartphone makers – are prevented from preying on the weak.

— source project-syndicate.org By Yanis Varoufakis

Don’t forget Yugoslavia

14 August 2008

The secrets of the crushing of Yugoslavia are emerging, telling us more about how the modern world is policed. The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, this year published her memoir The Hunt: Me and War Criminals. Largely ignored in Britain, the book reveals unpalatable truths about the west’s intervention in Kosovo, which has echoes in the Caucasus.

The tribunal was set up and bankrolled principally by the United States. Del Ponte’s role was to investigate the crimes committed as Yugoslavia was dismembered in the 1990s. She insisted that this include Nato’s 78-day bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999, which killed hundreds of people in hospitals, schools, churches, parks and tele vision studios, and destroyed economic infrastructure. “If I am not willing to [prosecute Nato personnel],” said Del Ponte, “I must give up my mission.” It was a sham. Under pressure from Washington and London, an investigation into Nato war crimes was scrapped.

Readers will recall that the justification for the Nato bombing was that the Serbs were committing “genocide” in the secessionist province of Kosovo against ethnic Albanians. David Scheffer, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, announced that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59” may have been murdered. Tony Blair invoked the Holocaust and “the spirit of the Second World War”. The west’s heroic allies were the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), whose murderous record was set aside. The British foreign secretary, Robin Cook, told them to call him any time on his mobile phone.

With the Nato bombing over, international teams descended upon Kosovo to exhume the “holocaust”. The FBI failed to find a single mass grave and went home. The Spanish forensic team did the same, its leader angrily denouncing “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines”. A year later, Del Ponte’s tribunal announced the final count of the dead in Kosovo: 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the KLA. There was no genocide in Kosovo. The “holocaust” was a lie. The Nato attack had been fraudulent.

That was not all, says Del Ponte in her book: the KLA kidnapped hundreds of Serbs and transported them to Albania, where their kidneys and other body parts were removed; these were then sold for transplant in other countries. She also says there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the Kosovar Albanians for war crimes, but the investigation “was nipped in the bud” so that the tribunal’s focus would be on “crimes committed by Serbia”. She says the Hague judges were terrified of the Kosovar Albanians – the very people in whose name Nato had attacked Serbia.

Indeed, even as Blair the war leader was on a triumphant tour of “liberated” Kosovo, the KLA was ethnically cleansing more than 200,000 Serbs and Roma from the province. Last February the “international community”, led by the US, recognised Kosovo, which has no formal economy and is run, in effect, by criminal gangs that traffic in drugs, contraband and women. But it has one valuable asset: the US military base Camp Bondsteel, described by the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner as “a smaller version of Guantanamo”. Del Ponte, a Swiss diplomat, has been told by her own government to stop promoting her book.

Yugoslavia was a uniquely independent and multi-ethnic, if imperfect, federation that stood as a political and economic bridge in the Cold War. This was not acceptable to the expanding European Community, especially newly united Germany, which had begun a drive east to dominate its “natural market” in the Yugoslav pro vinces of Croatia and Slovenia. By the time the Europeans met at Maastricht in 1991, a secret deal had been struck; Germany recognised Croatia, and Yugoslavia was doomed. In Washington, the US ensured that the struggling Yugoslav economy was denied World Bank loans and the defunct Nato was reinvented as an enforcer. At a 1999 Kosovo “peace” conference in France, the Serbs were told to accept occupation by Nato forces and a market economy, or be bombed into submission. It was the perfect precursor to the bloodbaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

— source johnpilger.com

Today EU countries run out of fish

From today until the end of the year, EU countries will rely on importing fish from outside of the EU to meet fish demand.

This means, as a bloc, our own production only supplies enough fish for just over half of our total consumption.
Why does this matter?

Relying on trade with others is not normally a bad thing: different countries are better at producing different things.

But in the case of European fisheries this dependence is a worrying symptom of decades of overfishing combined with rising consumption.

As a result of depleted stocks and stricter measures to control overfishing, catches in the EU have declined by around 2% per year between 1993 and 2013.

At the same time, many member states have massively increased their fish consumption. Portugal’s has increased from 29kg per capita per year in 1980 to 57kg in 2011, and EU-wide demand has gone up 57% since 1961.

Not only has this meant an increase in international imports, but it also means importing more from countries with weaker regulations.

The EU has progressively improved control over illegal fishing and now sets fishing limits more in line with what is sustainable.

But many other countries lack the same level of control and enforcement over their fisheries, often leading to unsustainable practices and in some cases even depriving local populations of their fish resource.
Are things getting better?

Last year, EU fish dependence day was 10 days earlier on the 3rd July, so things have improved slightly.

More generally, with more sustainable limits to fishing being set, there are clear signs that stocks are starting to improve. The proportion of stocks overfished in EU waters has decreased from 91% to 41% between 2006 and 2014.

This positive trend may also explain why fish dependence hasn’t matched the increase in consumption over the last 10 years. In fact, as the graph below shows, there has been a gradual if erratic decline in fish dependence.

However, we shouldn’t put our feet up as just yet.

Our modelling has shown that if European waters were fished sustainably, fish dependence day would be 87 days later on the 8th October – a fish dependency of just 21%, a reduction of more than half than the current 47%.

We could be fishing 2 million tonnes of extra fish a year supporting at least 20,000 additional jobs. It is crucial that in the coming years the EU sticks to its targets of fishing sustainably to make this a reality.
What about the UK and Brexit?

The UK’s fish dependence day is scheduled for the 19th of September this year, meaning the UK is more self-sufficient than the EU as a whole.

It’s also improving: since 1990 the UK’s fish dependence day has moved back 51 days making the country 14% points less dependent on imports.

But Brexit is likely to bring changes to UK fish markets.

Exactly what changes depend on the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the regulations that replace the Common Fisheries Policy, but there are some probable effects.

Leaving the single market is likely to result in the reintroduction of trade-tariffs, which would make trade more expensive and reduce it in both directions.

The fall in the value of the pound may also alter the pattern of trade flows, with imports becoming more expensive for the UK but its exports cheaper for other countries.

The biggest concern is the possibility that the UK will decide to drop the EU’s current ambitious targets of achieving maximum sustainable yield by 2020 and also phasing out discards.

As it has done in the past the UK should keep these targets and continue to lead in sustainable and responsible fishing.

— source neweconomics.org

BREXIT: Populism and Democracy: Part 1

By William K. Black
June 24, 2016 Kansas City, MO

The UK vote in favor of BREXIT has stoked the fears of the New York Times to a fevered pitch. Their greatest collective fear is the rise of “populism.” The NYT fashions itself the last redoubt of “serious people” under siege by the rabble. BREXIT is an opportunity to drive home to the rabble the folly of failing to fall in line with the policies of the serious people featured in the NYT. The moral of the story is a simple one – when the electorate in a democratic election ignores the technocrats the result is an economic and social catastrophe.

Even for the NYT, however, their attacks on the UK electorate for daring to vote for BREXIT were extraordinary in their intensity and multiplicity. At least seven articles, each of them negative about the UK voters, were featured in today’s paper. (I had no strong views on the vote. I think reasonable UK voters could disagree on the desirability of BREXIT.)

This is the first in a seven-part series discussing each of these seven articles decrying BREXIT. I focus on the unintended aspect of each article, for each demonstrates the contempt that a broad range of elites have for the voters and democracy.

Jochen Bittner

Jochen Bittner’s column is entitled “Brexit and Europe’s Angry Old Men.”

“It’s a victory for ordinary, decent people who have taken on the establishment,” declared Nigel Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party. Rubbish. It was a victory for people who have neither the guts nor the imagination to take on the downsides of globalization. Yes, globalization and Europeanization have taken their tolls, both on traditional forms of democracy and on traditional job security. But instead of tackling these problems, the Farages of the world have started the next ideological war.

That is a very strange and nasty paragraph. It’s fine to criticize Farage, but disparaging the majority of UK voters as having “neither the guts nor the imagination to take on the downsides of globalization” unintentionally reveals the dishonesty and arrogance of the EU elites. (Also, the word “globalization” has no useful definition in this context. Was the adoption of the euro an example of globalization or regionalism?) What is Bittner’s basis for claiming that BREXIT “started the next ideological war?” There was no war – there was a peaceful vote. There was no clear “ideological” split on BREXIT – the membership of the two traditional parties in the UK split internally and largely on non-ideological grounds.

Bittner says that whatever he means by “globalization and Europeanization” have “taken their tolls, both on traditional forms of democracy and traditional job security.” That is an extraordinary concession, and appears unambiguously harmful. What is “non-traditional job security?” Bittner implies it exists, but the reality is that it is job insecurity. What is “non-traditional democracy?” Bittner doesn’t tell us, but he implies it is how the EU functions to ensure that that the EU elites rather than people make the decisions about how to run their lives. “Traditional democracy” and “traditional job security” are two of the greatest triumphs of what Bittner terms the “enlightened, rational tradition of Europe.” They required centuries of struggle by the citizenry and workers against the closely allied political and financial elites. Many citizens and workers died or were blackballed or maimed in those struggles. Why would he think the public would continue to sit passively while failed elites took an ever-increasing “toll” on democracy and job security? Even if he thinks the public might “stand idly by” while its best traditions were repeatedly eroded, why does he think the public should do so?

Why does he think that openly displaying his contempt for those who support “traditional democracy” and “traditional job security” by labeling them as “sclerotic” “angry old men” “who have neither the guts nor the imagination to take on the downsides of globalization” demonstrates his superior “imagination” in “tak[ing] on the downsides of globalization?” His contempt blinds him to the fact that the pro-BREXIT voters were displaying their “guts” when they took on elite opinion and refused to be intimidated by the “Project Fear” campaign.

Bittner has zero willingness to consider those who voted for BREXIT fellow-citizens, proclaiming that “We can no longer think of reconciliation between the opposing views of destruction and progress.” Bittner implies that people who voted for “traditional democracy” and “traditional job security” support “destruction” while people who are willing to see “traditional democracy” and “traditional job security” further eroded represent “progress.” Bittner is at least logically consistent – he plainly has no respect for the tenets of “traditional democracy” or even traditional empathy, civility, or respect for the majority of voters who differed with his views.

Bittner also seems to think that the voting majority was unaware that he views them with contempt and wishes to do everything possible to prevent the majority’s views from determining policy. The reality is that the majority that voted for BREXIT was acutely aware of the elite contempt for their views and for “traditional democracy.” That contempt is the single most important reason why a majority voted for BREXIT.

— source neweconomicperspectives.org By William Black