Right-wing Parties are on the rise across Europe Read more >>>
Turkey will pay for lack of patience Read more >>>
Collapsing global trade a harbinger of the next crisis Read more >>>
Geopolitics escalates in Europe Read more >>>
Multiculturalism or assimilation? A plea for considering refugees as ‘Europeans in the making’ Read more >>>
Right-wing parties have always been part of the European political scene with the French National Front and the British National Party as well as United Kingdom Independent Party being most talked about. At the polls they may have had quite a large popular support, yet the election systems used in some European countries effectively blocked them from entering national parliaments although they gained a significant share of the vote (see graph for UKIP)1. In some isolated cases when a nationalistically-oriented or a right-wing party won a significant number of parliament seats, it would be shunned by all the remaining parties, and thus rendered politically ineffective, as was the case with the Sweden Democrats2.
Enter the refugees. The swelling numbers of migrants and especially the flood that has taken place over a couple of recent years has made Europeans reconsider their attitude to the phenomenon, and so they started supporting the parties, whose political platform called for stopping the migrant waves.
It was a political decision to down the Su-24, and it reflected more the growing impatience on the part of the Turks at the Russian military actions in Syria rather than an exasperation at the violation of Turkish airspace. The decision also showed Turkish shortsightedness and political immaturity. It was a blow to Russia, one that may lead to far-reaching international consequences. The long-term consequence for Turkey may be the loss of some of her territory to Kurds.
The course of events and their background
If each single violation of a country’s airspace were to lead to the outbreak of hostilities, we would long have had world war three that would have erupted in the region of the Baltic states where such incidents caused by Russian and NATO pilots are far from being rare. The long accepted practice is that in such cases the pilots of both sides try to make eye contact in order to identify the intruder beyond any doubt. Then the alien craft is escorted out of the country’s airspace.
A falling industrial demand, falling commodity prices, falling trade, falling sales. This is what we see now in China, Europe and even in the USA. What comes next? Falling employment, falling customers’ demand, falling economy. Global trade gives us clear signals that we cannot ignore.
A crisis is coming and these are the signs:
China: October imports fell 18.8 percent in comparison to the previous year1. It is the beginning of the domino effect, with its coal and iron background.
Taiwan: October orders from China fell 10.6 percent in comparison to the previous year, from Japan 24 percent down. Taiwan’s export orders are seen as an indicator of a demand for high-tech gadgets and for Asia’s exports2.
Japan: first decline in exports in October since August 2014 (2.1 percent in comparison to the previous year). Reasons: China’s slowdown, poor Asia’s demand, the yen not weak enough. Double-digit declines in auto parts and electronic components3.
Germany: a monthly drop in exports in August, due to declines in industrial production and the number of factory orders4.
UK: 40% of respondent-companies are below average in export orders. Reasons: China’s downturn and a strong sterling5.
Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index fell below 500 for the first time. Baltic’s BDI Index (gauging the cost of shipping) reflects a slower coal and iron ore demand in China. 19-commodity Thomson Reuters/Core Commodity CRB Index reached 13-year lows6.
USA: quiet three busiest U.S. seaports during ‘peak shipping season’. Imports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York fell in both September and October for the first time in a decade7.
The political situation in Europe is escalating rapidly. Saturday and Sunday Brussels was placed on lockdown. In Crimea there was a total electricity blackout after the pylons providing electricity for the region had been blown up in Ukraine. Border controls all over Europe are being reinstated as the Schengen agreements are suspended.
The refugees have arrived by the score. And there will be more. According to the figures of the UNHCR, 60 million people worldwide have fled their home country. Of those, some millions will manage to migrate into the European Union. As we have written in an earlier article, the policy of building the “fortress Europe” has utterly failed. We need a total reshaping of our refugee policy with a view to fight the flight causes in the countries of origin. But that will only improve the situation in – at the best – the midterm future.
The prevailing issue now is: what will be our attitude in relation to the people that are already on European soil? Considering the situation in their home countries, it would be totally illusory to believe that their stay will only be temporary and that they will eventually return home. We have to provide them with a prospect of permanent residence within the European Union. But that permanent residence can take quite different forms according to the degree of integration we (and the refugees) consider to be desirable. The spectrum of refugee integration is actually enormous: from their mere presence, living segregated, barely if at all speaking the language, working in jobs that only require the minimum of qualification, a new “reserve army of unemployed,” to their becoming fully-fledged members of our societies, with their children speaking perfectly the language, acquiring the best education according to their talent and ambition, and turning into ‘normal’ Europeans with the mere difference to other Europeans that their parents have arrived more recently.
Word spreads that somewhere out there, in fabulously rich Europe, there are plenty of opportunities waiting for you. The neighbour’s cousin says so, and he’s in Sweden; the boss’s brother assures you of it, and he’s been sending messages from Germany; the street vendor tells incredible stories of the riches his brother-in-law enjoys in the Netherlands, and you envy him. Your imagination is incited.
You look for the like-mined people. They’re excited like hell. You make a decision. Someone tips you about the w2eu website and others like that. You visit the site, you can get the feel how welcome you are in Europe; you can read for yourself, yea, the texts, the brochures, the information are all in your mother tongue. There’s no time to hesitate.
Vladimir Putin is resuming the play. A year ago he was spurned on the international political scene only to become a key player nowadays. As he had a face-to-face talk with Barack Obama during the G-20 Summit in Turkey, he must have been complacent about his plan coming to fruition. Making use of the terror victims, of whom 224 were his compatriots, the Russian president is slowly but surely re-establishing his position, gradually fulfilling his aims. Europe needs Putin in her struggle against Jihadists. It will, however, have its price: Europe will have to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia and give up on plans of integrating Ukraine within the Union.
It was four days after the Paris attacks that a friendly soccer match between Germany and Holland was to be played. Chancellor Angela Merkel and some members of her government had announced their presence. It was to be a show of strength and a message to the masterminds of the (future) attacks: we have not been browbeaten, we continue to live the way we have up to now. An hour and a half before the game started, it was canceled and the venue with a large neighboring area evacuated. It is alleged the police was tipped off on a planned terrorist attack; it was alleged an unattended object had been found on the stadium premises..
Though the exchange rate of the Swiss franc was floated by the Swiss National Bank in January 2015, yet in Poland the problem that arose in connection with it regarding housing loans taken out in Swiss francs is far from being solved. The deadline for the final decision in this respect has again been extended, which further heightens the tension both on the part of some half a million of the borrowers and on the part of the lending banks. The chances are that the banks may sustain a cost of up to 50 bn PLN or approximately 12 bn euros, which is equivalent to three times as much as the whole profit made by the banks for the year 2014.
On 15 of January 2015 the Swiss floated the exchange rate of the Franc: prior to this day the exchange rate was PLN 3,57 to CHF 1, thereafter it rose to PLN 4,33 to CHF 1. During the following months the rate settled at PLN 3,92 to CHF 1. What does that mean for 560 thousand families that pay the Swiss franc loans back? Taking into consideration that the average exchange rate when the loans were taken out stood at PLN 2,4 to CHF 1, it means for an average debtor a loss of PLN 1,5 for each Swiss franc borrowed1.
Portugal is one of the European countries that was the most affected by the financial and Euro crisis. In 2012 interest rates on Portuguese bonds reached more than 17% and public debt reached 124% GDP. The Portuguese financial crisis led to an international rescue plan agreed upon by the Portuguese government on the one hand and the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF on the other. Portugal is a Euro-Zone member which is why the country cannot devalue its currency. With fiscal devaluation, tax cuts on labor that is compensated for by an increase in VAT, Portugal and European authorities try to improve Portuguese competitiveness. The troika pushed for labor market reforms such as lower wages and the reduction in unemployment benefits. The reforms were carried out by the Partido Social Democrata PSD and the Centro Democratico Social CDS (both members of EPP), a coalition government headed by Passos Coelho, who took over from the Socialists in 2011.
National security agencies are failing to protect their airline carriers. Travel agency and airline carriers can not rely on traditional security information and security agencies. As states disintegrates, traditional governmental organization do not provide safeguards for reliable operations anymore.
We mentioned back in July that there is a full blown war in the Sinai. The Egyptian authorities do everything in their power to downplay the facts in order to hold the image of them being in full control. To protect their economical interest they do not share information about the situation. Hundreds of people have been killed in the Sinai last year alone. In September 12 Mexican tourists were accidentally shot by the Egyptian army and in august of this year a passenger airliner was targeted by a missile. The British plane was landing at Sharm el Sheikh airport when a rocket was launched in their direction the pilot barely managed to dodge it. This serious event did not result in appropriate actions by the UK’s or Egyptian security authorities.
While paying a visit to Europe in October, Erdoğan addressed an AKP rally in Strasbourg. Thousands of Turks turned up, waving Turkish national flags and listening to Erdoğan’s speech full of nationalistic references to epic wars that Turkey waged against Europe, a speech fraught with religious rhetoric. Europe should be on its guard and take this religion-driven Turkish nationalism very seriously, since history teaches that such statements may not end well.
European politicians had better take notice of the fact that so many AKP supporters showed up in Strasbourg, so much so that the city is not a Turkish rural area nor are the Turks present at the rally simple villagers: to the contrary, the participants of the mass meeting have been living in Europe, the center of the western cosmopolitan world, for decades. Analysts should not downplay the symbolism used by the president of Turkey as meaninglessness. Erdoğan’s reference to the Battle of Gallipoli1, when the Ottomans defeated the Europeans, was chosen with care as a strong and unambiguous message. A direct parallel between the said historic event and the defeat of the European Union by the AKP can easily be drawn, and Erdoğan’s visit to Brussels could be interpreted as an intended humiliation of the European Union, with the subsequent visit of Chancellor Merkel to Ankara as an act of Europe’s capitulation.