During 2015, the year that now ends, the European Union has brought its well-known inability to manage the egocentric and centrifugal action of its major three nations (Britain, France and Germany) to new highs, a practice that has lately led to ineffectiveness and Euroscepticism. The EU cooperated this year with Britain, France and of course the US to obliterate Syria and Ukraine after having destroyed Libya in 2011. On top of that, in 2015, Brussels did almost nothing to help Greece surpass her own self-destructiveness and failed to protect Athens from the wrath of Berlin. The whole thing ended up in an unseen before migration fallout, with more than one million Asians and Africans reaching central and northern Europe mainly through the Greek islands.
Not to forget, that, also this year, the EU together with the US barred Russia from the rest of Europe and the western economic volume, over the Ukrainian crisis. As a result, during the year that now comes to an end, the EU took a giant step backwards and ‘de facto’ supported, with its actions and omissions, the jingoistic and Eurosceptic political forces all over the Old Continent.
The three sins
There are three major hot issues on which the European Commission failed to adopt a courageous stance, aimed at enhancing the cohesion of the EU and strengthen the independence of the Brussels institutions. The most important of the three is the Syria-Turkey predicament, which created and channeled the unprecedented exodus of people in 2015, a phenomenal movement of one million refugees and immigrants, longing to reach Europe.
The second issue is the unbending German intransigence and hostility against Greece that now threatens the country’s best performing economic sector, the merchant marine. Last but not least, last week the Commission reminded us all that Europe, aided by the US, destroyed in Libya the only political force that was the Gaddafi regime, able to keep this country in one piece, even using brutal violence. The bloodshed and the complete chaos that followed the dictator’s death, can in retrospect, even justify Gaddafi’s cruelty. Last week the European Commission offered us three occasions to think about these burning issues. Let’s take one thing at a time.
Kurds and Erdoğan: Who is the aggressor?
A Commission spokesperson (European External Action Service), commented last week on the full civil war situation, between the country’s armed forces and the Kurds, that is developing in southeast Turkey. Of course, there are overwhelming spillovers of this confrontation into northern Iraq and eastern Syria, an equivalent of stirring mad in the devil’s hole.
Brussels however, in drafting this statement, forgot who started the aggression in southeastern Turkey. It was the chauvinistic objectives and the domineering political ambitions of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that abruptly reversed Ankara’s two years old policy of the ‘Kurdish Peace Process’ at the beginning of 2015, on the occasion of the fight and the Kurdish victory in Kobane.
Unfortunately, the Spokespersons’ Service of the EU External Action Service issued on 22/12/2015 a statement saying that “The Turkish authorities are faced with difficult challenges, due to the threat posed by PKK and by other terrorist groups at its borders”. In reality, during the past months, the Turkish armed forces have been wiping out entire villages, towns and neighborhoods in big cities in the southeastern parts of the country. Not a word about that.
How does the West see the Kurds?
It’s interesting to watch how the EU and more so the US are treating the Kurdish people. The West generously finances and amply arms the Iraqi Kurds, while it tolerates the victories of the Syrian Kurds against ISIS and denounces as terrorists the Turkish Kurds. If this is not an utter hypocrisy then we have lost the meaning of words.
The truth is that the Iraqi Kurds are obedient cooperatives completely depending on the West, whereas the almost communist Syrian Kurds are barely stomached by the EU and the US as being the only reliable and effective ground force against the murderers of ISIS. As for the Turkish Kurds, as far as the West is concerned, they are expendable and they are now being traded against Erdoğan’s cooperation in Syria.
Once there was a country called Libya
Passing now to the Libyan EU policies, a Press release published on 23 December by the Commission, was at the same time a laughing stock and a reminder of the tragedy ordinary Libyans are facing during the last few years, after their country was destroyed by French and British fighter jets. The Press release said, “The European Commission has finalized a new assistance package for Libya worth a total of €6.6 million… It consists of two programs: 1) Support to the health sector (€3.6 million) and…2) Support to Libyan youth (€3 million)”.
This is ridiculous stuff because Libya has a wealth of foreign investments of tens of dollar billions, which are being currently blocked and usurped by western governments and bankers. It’s also a tragedy because it’s impossible that any European help can ever reach the average Libyan, who is at the mercy of almost two thousands of armed factions, fighting between them for the control of the oil production and sales and the property of the foreign investments.
It’s poor Greece again
Last but not least, the Commission now threatens to undermine the only sector of the distressed Greek economy which functions perfectly, the merchant marine, that offers well paid employment to thousands and ships into the country around ten billion of euro annually. According to a Press release “The European Commission has sent to Greece a set of proposals to ensure that state support to the maritime sector in Greece complies with EU state aid rules”. The document was entitled “State aid: Commission invites Greece to better target its “tonnage tax” and related support measures in maritime sector”.
It seems that the Commission specializes lately in drafting texts which are at the same time laughing stock and disguised treachery. For one thing, the Greek ocean going merchant marine not only has never received any kind of state aid, but the Greek ship-owners have thoroughly avoided coming ashore in their own country. The obvious reason is that they could operate their fleets from tax-free havens. However, in the 1970s, Greece, like many other European countries, instituted a tonnage-based taxation instead of a profit-based tax for ship-owners, thus permitting to the shipping companies to establish their headquarters and operation offices to Greece.
Targeting the merchant ships
For a number of historic and other reasons, the Greek shipping sector has been always thriving. In the good times by cashing in high freights and just before the bad times come by selling their vessels at lofty prices to the Germans. For this reason however it attracted the resentment of the German ship-owners, who despite the numerous state subsidies they receive they can’t stay afloat. And more so because the Greek ship-owners have ridiculed and impoverished them, by buying and selling their fleets many times during the past twenty years leaving them in despair and getting much richer themselves.
Now the German shipping circles think they have a chance to destabilize their Greek competitors, counting on the economic helplessness and the vulnerability of Athens. The ground has been prepared by years of bad European Press for Greece. During the last years the German tabloids have been accusing the Greeks of being lazy and count for their welfare on EU loans and money transfers. As a result, Berlin found the opportunity to try and hit Greece where it hurts most, the merchant marine. The Commission undertook to do the dirty job.
But the ships have propellers
Yet again, the Berlin and the Brussels bureaucracy don’t know exactly what they are doing, in starting a war with the Greek merchant marine. In high seas, hypocrisy and paper threats are not strong enough weapons to hurt the giant ocean constructions. The truth is that the Greek shipping companies can very easily abandon altogether the European Union soil and go elsewhere to prosper and offer highly paid jobs. As they say in Piraeus, the ships have propellers and can go wherever they like. This reality may induce the impartial observer to think that Brussels is trying to blackmail Athens on other issues, possibly the postponement of the debt relaxation, by threatening the merchant marine.
Undoubtedly, the European Commission has been using utter hypocrisy in all the three issues presented above. In reality though, such policy lines cannot produce reliable results, because this is just a second rate instrument. Unfortunately, it can hurt the healthy elements in Turkey, Syria, Libya and Greece and produce devastating results in all those questions that the European Union had to deal with during this now passing year.