Welcome refugees to Europe – A moral and political necessity

di lunedì, marzo 7, 2016 0 , , , Permalink

Appello lanciato da Étienne Balibar e co-firmato da Barbara Spinelli. Versione francese: Accueillir les réfugiés en Europe : Une nécessité morale et politique urgente.

Per firmare l’appello

We citizens of the Member States of the European Union, of the Schengen Area, the Balkans, of the Mediterranean, and of the Middle East as well as citizens of other countries in the world, who share our concerns, are launching an emergency appeal. To our government leaders and our representatives in national parliaments and in the European Parliament, as well as in the European Court of Human Rights and in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

The refugees from the Middle East must be rescued and welcomed!
For years now, immigrants from the southern Mediterranean fleeing poverty, war, and repression have been drowning at sea or been dashed against barbed wire. When they have succeeded in crossing the sea, after suffering extortion at the hands of smuggler rings, they are expelled, incarcerated, or thrown into clandestinity by the states who designate them as ‘dangers’ and ‘enemies’. Despite this, they are courageously persevering and helping each other to save their lives and create hope of a future.

But since the wars of the Middle East and especially in Syria have assumed the proportions of mass slaughter with no end in sight, the scale of the situation has altered. Held hostage between the warring parties, bombed, starved, and terrorised, entire populations have been thrown into a perilous exodus that, at the price of thousands more dead, pushes men, women, and children towards neighbouring countries and knocking at Europe’s doors.

This is a major historic and humanitarian catastrophe. It presents us with a responsibility of which there is no way out.
The incapacity of the governments of all our countries to put an end to the causes of this exodus (if they are not indeed contributing to their exacerbation) does not exonerate them of the obligation to save and welcome the refugees, while respecting their fundamental rights, which, with the right to asylum, are enshrined in the foundational declarations and conventions of international law.

However, with few exceptions – Germany’s exemplary initiative, an initiative that has still not been suspended today; and the gigantic effort by Greece to rescue, welcome, and escort the thousands of survivors who daily arrive on their shores, even if its economy has been plunged into devastating austerity – Europe’s governments have refused to face the overall situation, to explain it to their populations, and to organise solidarity and go beyond national egoisms. On the contrary, from east to west and north to south, they have rejected the minimal plan for distributing the refugees worked out by the European Commission or are involved in sabotaging it. Worse, they are engaging in repression, stigmatisation, and the brutalisation of refugees and immigrants in general. The situation of the ‘jungle’ of Calais, followed now by its violent dismantling, in disregard for the spirit and letter of a court decision, is a scandalous, though not the only, illustration of this.

By contrast, it is the citizens of Europe and elsewhere – fishermen and inhabitants of Lampedusa and Lesbos, activists of refugee relief and immigrant support networks, lay and religious shelter centres, endorsed by artists and intellectuals – who have saved their honour and pointed the way to a solution. However, they are running up against insufficient means, and sometimes the hostility of public authorities, and they have to face, like the refugees and immigrants themselves, a rapidly growing European xenophobic front ranging from violent, openly racist or neo-fascist organisations to ‘respectable’ political leaders and governments increasingly overtaken by authoritarianism, nationalism, and demagoguery. Two completely incompatible Europes are facing each other, and from now on we have to choose between them.

This xenophobic tendency, which is deadly for the victims of violence and ruinous for the future of the European continent as an space of liberty must be reversed immediately.
With 60 million refugees in the world, Lebanon and Jordan receive a million of them each (representing, respectively, 20 per cent and 12 percent of their populations), and Turkey receives 2 million (3 per cent). The million refugees who arrived in Europe in 2015 (one of the richest regions in the world, despite the crisis) only represent 0.2 per cent of its population! Not only do the European countries, taken as a whole, have the means to welcome the refugees and treat them with dignity but they must do so in order to continue to lay claim to human rights as the foundation of their polities. It is also in their interest if they want to begin to recreate the conditions for peace and collective security, along with all the countries of the Mediterranean area that have shared the same history and same cultural heritage for thousands of years. And this is what has to be done to remove from our horizon, once and for all, the spectre of a new epoch of organised institutional discrimination and of the elimination of ‘undesirable’ human beings.

Nobody can say when and in what proportion the refugees will ‘go back home’, and nobody should underestimate the difficulty of the issue to be solved, of the resistance which it generates, and the obstacles and dangers it carries with it. But nobody can continue to ignore the will of the populations to receive refugees and the refugees’ wish to integrate. Nobody has the right to declare the problem unresolvable in order to evade it more easily.

Very large-scale emergency measures thus are needed immediately.
The task to provide assistance to the refugees from the Middle East and Africa in the framework of a state of emergency has to be proclaimed and implemented by the governing bodies of the EU and carried by all the Member States. It has to be upheld by the United Nations and be the object of a permanent consultation with democratic states of the whole region.

Civilian and military forces have to be deployed, not to carry out a coastal guerrilla action against the ‘smugglers’ but to bring aid to the immigrants and to put an end to the scandal of the drownings at sea. It is in this framework that it will possibly be necessary to crack down on the traffic and condemn the complicity that benefits from it. It is prohibiting legal access that generates Mafioso practices, and not the inverse.

The burden of the frontline receiving countries, in particular Greece, must immediately be relieved. Their contribution to the common interest must be recognised.

The Schengen free-circulation area must be preserved, but the Dublin Regulation that provides for pushing immigrants back to the entry country must be suspended and renegotiated. The EU should pressure Danube and Balkan countries to reopen their borders and negotiate with Turkey to convince it to stop using refugees as a political-military excuse and bargaining chip.

At the same time, air and sea transport has to be operated to transfer all the registered refugees to the northern European countries that are objectively able to receive them instead of letting them accumulate in a small country in danger of becoming a ‘dumping ground’ for humanity.

In the longer term, Europe – facing one of the great challenges that is changing the course of the history of peoples – has to develop a democratically controlled aid plan for the survivors of this huge slaughter and for those who are helping them. It has to establish not only receiving quotas but also social and educational aid, and therefore a special budget and legal provisions guaranteeing new rights that embed the displaced populations in the receiving societies in a dignified and peaceful way.

There is no other alternative. It is either hospitality and the right to asylum or barbarism !

Primi firmatari:

Étienne BALIBAR (Francia)
Michel AGIER (Francia)
Horst ARENZ (Germania)
Athéna ATHANASIOU (Grecia)
Walter BAIER (Austria)
Etienne BALIBAR (Francia)
Marie BOUAZZI (Tunisia)
Hamit BOZARSLAN (Francia)
Marie-Claire CALOZ-TSCHOPP (Svizzera)
Edouard DELRUELLE (Belgio)
Matthieu DE NANTEUIL (Belgio)
Ahmet INSEL (Turchia)
Nicolas KLOTZ (Francia)
Amanda LATIMER (Regno Unito)
Camille LOUIS (Francia)
Giacomo MARRAMAO (Italia)
Roger MARTELLI (Francia)
Sandro MEZZADRA (Italia)
Maria NIKOLAKAKI (Grecia)
Barbara SPINELLI (Italia)
Étienne TASSIN (Francia)
Hans VENEMA (Paesi Bassi)
Frieder Otto WOLF (Germania)

The many faces of Angela Merkel

TheGodmother-1

Bruxelles, 13 ottobre 2015. Discorso di Barbara Spinelli in occasione della proiezione del film “The Godmother” diretto da Stelios Kouloglou (GUE/NGL-Syriza, Grecia).

Gertrud Höhler, the author of the book “Die Patin” – “The Godmother” – says: there is a mystery surrounding Angela Merkel. A mystery because she wins and wins elections, without never offering any great vision, because she so manifestly lacks any emotion even looking back at the years in the German Democratic Republic – she was a mere observer, she never participated in a single demonstration in the months before the fall of the Berlin Wall – but still she never stops having success in politics and being popular in her country.

The film of Stelios Kouloglou shows very well this contradiction: it does this with humour, sarcasm and dramatic images of the devastating effects of Merkel’s austerity in Greece and in the other countries tamed by the troika.

I will try to sum up those contradictions since they are at the very essence of Merkel’s success, and constantly reveal a sort of double nature of the Chancellor. First of all, she always seemed to me a mixture of inflexibility, indecision, extreme cunning, and supreme mediocrity. The same person uses the indifference to values as a weapon, as asserted by Gertrud Höhler speaking in her book of the Chancellors systematic “value-abstinence”. At the same time she is able to literally devour one German political party after the other (first the party fashioned by Helmut Kohl, then the Spd, lastly the Greens with the exit from the nuclear energy; in the future she could even destabilise Die Linke on refugees policies). Finally, her mediocrity: it’s a talent she brings, sometimes and deliberately, to the extremes. It’s a talent well represented in the documentary of Stelios by her trivial remarks on holidays, or by what she said once about the German Democratic Republic (DDR) where she grew up: “What is most disturbing, in the DDR, is the fact that there is no decent yogurt”. That’s what she remembers of her adult life in the German communist system.

She can be arrogant and even cruel, as demonstrated by the negotiations with the Greek government on the memoranda. At the same time, she is the only European leader who tries to have sensible and rational policies on migrants. She is not only the “undercover Chancellor” described by Gertrud Höhler but she really is a two-faced person, if the circumstances so demand.

There are two sentences which show her amphibious nature. One of these is quoted in the film of Stelios Kouloglou, and it concerns the memorandum negotiated with Athens when George Papandreou was Prime Minister: “It must hurt!”, “Es muss wehtun!”. It is a terrible symbol of the austerity years. The other was pronounced in the most dramatic days of migrant’s influx, in the first half of October, when she opened the doors of her country to Syrian asylum seekers. In that occasion, she did not hesitate to clash with the right wing of her party. And she avoided the word “migrants”, preferring the more appropriate word “refugees”. She was sure of what she said: “Wir schaffen es!”. Which is the German equivalent of “Yes we can!”.

What is the link between the two sentences, apparently so divergent one from the other? They both lack any European dimension and vision. As far as austerity is concerned, the German dogma states that every country must fulfill its “homework” alone, before a real solidarity and transnational cooperation can begin: it’s the core of German ordo-liberalism. With regard to migration, she says something similar: Germany can cope with all on its own. Consequently, it means that all Member States can cope with everything on their own. Only en passant she admits that the European Dublin System is dead and gone, that the Union as such must change its whole approach on asylum policies. She has an enormous self-esteem and opinion of her country. She is substantially nationalist, in economy as well as in refugee and migration policy.

German newspapers reacted harshly to her slogan “Yes we can!”. Only two days after she uttered the sentence, they began to headline articles saying that she couldn’t at all: “No we can’t” – “ Wir schaffen es nicht”. Now she focuses all her attention, in the European Council’s meeting, on repatriation policies and on the control of the EU borders. How many Merkels are acting on the stage?

Grexit and the European sleepwalkers

di mercoledì, giugno 24, 2015 0 , , , Permalink

Il Sole 24 ore, June 21, 2015 (Versione italiana)

“We can restore the dialogue only with adults in the room”, Christine Lagarde has affirmed, warning Greece on behalf of the Monetary Fund. Ironically, she is right: there are too many careless persons and too many economic experts lacking historical memory and geopolitical awareness in the rooms where, for months, the faith of Europe as a whole, not only of Greece, has been decided upon. When we discuss about the euro and its rules or when we invoke stronger European institutions without questioning the standards that should support the single currency, Europe as such is at stake and not just a single State in trouble.

The IFM has proven not to be fully adult itself in defending, over and over again, structural reforms that the IFM itself has questioned since 2013 for being harmful and counter-productive, hence wrong. Those who raised the spectre of Grexit selling it as an easy solution, spread panic among Greek savers, and gave misleading information about the chaos that would affect the Greek Central Bank, cannot be considered adults either. The Union Treaties and the Statute of the ECB do not provide for unilateral mechanisms designed to leave the eurozone unless the State at risk of bankruptcy preliminarily decides to leave the European Union. The Greek government is not opting for this solution. It is definitely not possible to expel Greece.

During a speech delivered at the European Parliament on June 15, Mario Draghi implicitly revealed the truth when he suggested that the “political decision will have to be taken by elected policymakers, not by central bankers”. He did not propose any real alternative, and reaffirmed that “the ball lies squarely in the camp of the Greek government to take the necessary steps” – thus appearing more political than he wanted to be – but he admitted that an additional failure in the negotiations will push us into “uncharted waters”.

The pressure put on Athens to further reduce public expenditure and pensions – even if these have been already reduced to a minimum level – confirms that the Union is led by powers lacking any sense of responsibility. If those powers were adults, they would invite to the room of negotiations persons with historical sense and, above all, historical memory. These would be persons provided with a central vision and strong inspiring principles, aware of the fact that history is tragic, mindful of the past catastrophes and conscious of the imminent risks, namely the risk for the Union to collapse and lose its attractive force towards its citizens. Sitting at the negotiating table there would be geostrategic experts and all those economists – such as the two Noble Prices Winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman – who have been regularly despised in all these years even though they never proved wrong. We do not see predictive economists among those who are pushing the Tsipras Government to carry out already accomplished structural reforms, but simple politicians who, in order to hold their power, lazily and indifferently keep on following hegemonic austerity philosophies that have already proved their obsolescence. The real gross domestic product of Greece already fell by 27% due to austerity measures, the public debt rose to 180% of GDP, unemployment has reached 27%.

Experts in geopolitics would help us understand the centrality of Greece within a Europe struggling with chaos at its Eastern and Southern borders. A Europe which is unable to face this chaos autonomously – and does not want to tackle it by itself, while, at the same time, keeping the distances from an American strategy that consciously revives the Cold War with Russia and has contributed to create, beyond the Mediterranean Sea, an area of instability from Sub-Saharan Africa to Afghanistan. Greece is at the border of this world, at the crossroads of the Balkans, the Middle East, and Syria. Its bonds with Russia are strong and deep-rooted. The aversion of the Tsipras government to the war on terrorism, and more recently to the project of intervening in Libya to fight against human traffickers, is well-known in Berlin and Paris. Its hostility against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is equally known. Perhaps, someone in Europe would like to “lose” Athens precisely for such reasons, but this loss would be a political suicide.

Europe cannot give up Greece if it wishes to stop being a puppet of the US administration, to avoid a new cold war and to properly analyse the Ukrainian situation – while recognising that Ukraine moved from a pro-Russian oligarchy to another kind of oligarchy linked to russophobic right-wing extremists. Europe cannot manage without Greece on immigration issues either. The newly elected Greek government is facing an influx of migrants and asylum seekers much heavier and sudden than the Italian one and it is dealing with it without evoking xenophobic instincts. The hypothesis of a Grexit is not only outrageous but even dull if compared to the silence that, at the same time, surrounds the Hungarian plan – announced on June 17 – to erect a 175 km long wall along the border with Serbia in order to stop the flow of refugees and migrants into the country.

Finally, negotiations lack of persons with a basic level of general knowledge. In an article published on June 16 by Die Welt, the commentator Jacques Schuster warned the Germans that Tsipras is proving to be one of the most skilful and astute European politicians: he is capable of exploring the deepest recesses of the German soul and of using guile and cunning in order to take advantage of the “weak nerves” of Germany. It cannot be otherwise: “the Greeks are a nation of sailors”, and the sailors “are used to fluctuate in the waters and swing on the edge”.

Such worrying articles are reminiscent of pre-First World War language, charged with psycho-ethnic allusions to the “nerves” of single personified populations. The distinction between Land and Sea – theorized by Carl Schmitt in the Thirties and Forties – comes back: on one side, lawless people that are used to fluctuate in the oceans and, on the other side, cultures rooted in the mainland and thus able to create the nòmos, namely the law and all the needed rules.

The European Head of States appear to come from those ages. They seem monarchs who, as drunkards, let themselves be tempted by such bellicose lexicon without realising it. The future of Europe is too important to be entrusted to sleepwalkers who only base their expertise on defunct economic theories. Being an adult in Europe means having the ability to recognize not only uncharted waters, but even the muddy ones into which we risk to blunder.

Athens, Europe

di mercoledì, giugno 3, 2015 0 , , , Permalink

GUE/NGL study days in Athens 2th – 4th June

Tuesday, June 2ndPeriphery Debts: Causes, consequences and solutions

3rd panel: “Standing with the Greeks for a European Alternative

Barbara Spinelli’s speech (Versione italiana)

Ever since the crisis has affected Europe we got used to say that the Union has utilised Greece as a guinea-pig. (This is perhaps the reason why the term “Pig-countries” is used…) The guinea-pig needed to be subjected to an intensive therapy of austerity measures and the treatment had to be administered by a powerful oligarch – the trojka – which presented itself as a European entity, even federal, despite its inter-national nature due to the inclusion of the Monetary Fund. The existence of a “Greek laboratory” has been fully confirmed by the negotiations that started between Syriza on one side and the Union and the Monetary Fund on the other side, since the party won the elections on January 25.

Now it is time to examine in depth the current situation. We need to understand the root causes that generated this five-year “experimentation”, its purpose and what it can tell us about Europe. The aim of the experiment is getting clearer: a technical-political oligarchy is currently using Greece to enhance its own disciplinary power in the Union, by testing a specific – de-constitutionalised and de-parliamentarised – model of democracy. I would like to focus on this de-constitutionalisation, in order to understand why these experimenters continue to support not only the need, but the effectiveness of their test, while being aware of the fact that the effectiveness of the cure is more than dubious and that the Union is actually falling apart. In 2013 the Monetary Fund for the first time confessed that its estimates regarding the effects of austerity on growth and occupation were wrong, and yet the IMF too is sticking to its doctrines.

From the point of view of EU authorities, the experiment has been successful since it reached its primary target. Democracies and national constitutions are gradually eroded and, most important, universal suffrage is becoming an annoying variable that can be bypassed or sacrificed. In the hierarchy of priorities, effectiveness and governability are replacing representativeness, and this coup de main is made possible by the identification of national sovereignty with popular sovereignty. As a consequence, the ever-increasing loss of national sovereignties since the two world wars drags citizens’ sovereignty into the abyss. This collapse of national sovereignties is generally presented as a precondition for a federal development of the Union, but a Federation is far from being a reality. Therefore, sovereignty simply evaporates and the powers which rule globalisation – hastily called markets – prevail.

In a truly federal union, the negotiations between Athens and the European Union would rest on a totally different basis. In an European “agorà”, the arguments presented by the Greek government would count, and prevail on the power of each single State. In a Federation, a Member State would not be punished for its debt by way of its exclusion from the federal institutions and their currency. Federations do exist in order to avoid precisely this risk.

The fact is that Europe is experiencing an extraordinary regression and this is the real ongoing experiment. The Greek case is used in order to question the post-war idea that Europe could prevail on the old balance of nationalist powers – a balance of power which caused the world wars of the last century – in two ways: first, by creating a permanent solidarity bond among the States, while preserving popular sovereignty as the basis of constitutional democracies and, second, by turning the fight against poverty (Welfare) into the cornerstone of the new Community. The new oligarchic Europe, which is flourishing through the crisis, is led by a “postnational federalism of the executives” – quoting Habermas – and this Directory is responsible for the entropy we are facing: Parliaments are progressively disempowered and European unity is gradually losing its political dimension, if not disappearing.

The entropy of the European Union is not a new condition. It started in the 70’s, when the Trilateral Commission entrusted three political analysts with the task of drafting the vademecum of the de-constitutionalised democracy in order to make democracy “governable”. I am speaking about the report written in 1975 by Michel Crozier, Samuel Huntington e Joji Watanuki, titled «The crisis of democracy ». Today there is much debate on managed democracy, talking about Putin’s autocracy. The truth is that we ourselves are living under forced administration. What we are facing is a revival – that’s the reason why I spoke about an “extraordinary regression” – of the nineteenth-century aggression against universal suffrage which raged when Great Britain decided to gradually extend the right to vote. Such extension was the enemy to destroy, since it jeopardised the old establishment. Approximately at that time, the same approach was adopted against the first hesitant attempts aimed at introducing Welfare rules which ought to stem social damages created by the industrial liberal revolution. Both enfranchisement and welfare did represent a threat for the “protected” élite and, consequently, for the authority of governments.

The Greek case reveals that Europe is not in construction but, on the contrary, in de-construction. The orthodoxy on which the de-construction is grounded remains untouched, since it represents a political theology: no single element of the dogma can be be questioned without contesting the power apparatus which enunciated it. The infallibility of the dogma is intrinsically linked to the permanence of that power apparatus. For this reason, something is rotten in the State of Europe.

Finally, something is rotten in the creation and management of the euro too. And once again we find the same mistake: Europe decides to unify an important sector – the currency, or one day the defence – without creating at first a political unity as well as a democratic constitution which allow citizens to exercise control over the newly deployed super-national sovereignties. Despite its ongoing failure, the model is proposed over and over again by Europe, which deems it the most “pragmatic” hence the most effective. It is actually the most destructive model, as already stated in 1971 by the economist Nicholas Kaldor – repeatedly quoted by Yanis Varoufakis – when speaking about the economic and monetary union (the so-called Werner Plan) proposed at that time. His words are prophetic: «Some day the nations of Europe may be ready to merge their national identities and create a new European Union – the United States of Europe. (…) This will involve the creation of a “full economic and monetary union”. But it is a dangerous error to believe that monetary and economic union can precede a political union or that it will act – in the words of the Werner report – ‘as a leaven for the evolvement of a political union which in the long run it will in any case be unable to do without’. For if the creation of a monetary union and Community control over national budgets generates pressures which lead to a breakdown of the whole system it will prevent the development of a political union, not promote it».

His words should be reminded to those who like to imagine the future European “governance” while congratulating themselves for the current political choices. I would like to mention in this context the speech delivered on March 26 by Mario Draghi at the Italian Parliament. Quite rightly, he asserts that the original flaw of the common currency has consisted in the creation, as a first step, of rules – economic and financial, fatally ignored as he says by the majority – instead of common institutions (I assume federal institutions). Hence his wish: “replace a system grounded on rules with a different system based on stronger institutions”.

At first sight, his wish echoes Kaldor’s words. Actually, it doesn’t echo them at all. For the ECB President, the economic and financial rules did in no way cause the “breakdown of the whole system” as predicted by Kaldor; in fact, he still has an extremely high opinion of them. That’s why he concludes his speech by stating that if we want a more political union “we must, in the first place, abide by the rules currently in force”. Here is the vicious circle that preserves the status quo. The “stronger” institutions are apparently supposed to legitimise and glorify rules whose effects have already and in the most conspicuous way proved catastrophic: «Only by respecting rules – in the words of Draghi – we can build the necessary mutual trust for establishing future institutions». The relationship between Greece and Europe has extensively proven that such vision of things is not so much delusional as it is deceitful.

MEPs urge European leaders to secure the future of Greece

di sabato, febbraio 14, 2015 0 , , Permalink

In a letter entitled “Greece, a new opportunity for Europe”, several Members of the European Parliament, from different Member States and different Political Groups (GUE/NGL, GREENS/EFA and S&D), urge European leaders to “secure the future of Greece within the European family, with full respect for democracy, social justice and solidarity.” The MEPs stress that “failing to do so will put the whole European project at risk.”

MEPs stated that “the Greek elections in January have opened up the possibility for change in Europe,” and they believe that “the cry for hope coming from the Greek people is the impetus we need for our continent to change course.”

The MEPs maintain that “EU institutions and national governments now face the failures of their response to the historically severe economic downturn in Greece, as well as in the development of economic policies that have widened inequalities and hampered the European project”. They “sincerely believe that solidarity should prevail and that we should make every effort to change the catastrophic course that has been set for Greece in recent years. If this is done effectively, then the whole of Europe will benefit.”

The signatories of this letter urge the European institutions and Member States to seize this opportunity and change course, learning from past mistakes.

The first signatories are (in alphabetical order):

Marina Albiol (GUE/NGL, ES)
Guillaume Balas (S&D, FR)
Sergio Cofferati (S&D, IT)
Pablo Iglesias (GUE/NGL, ES)
Eva Joly (Greens/EFA, FR)
Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE)
Edouard Martin (S&D, FR)
Marisa Matias (GUE/NGL, PT)
Liliana Rodrigues (S&D, PT)
Molly Scott Cato (Greens/EFA, UK)
Barbara Spinelli, (GUE/NGL, IT)
Marc Tarabella, (S&D, BE)
Ernest Urtasun (Greens/EFA, ES)