A Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times”. That meant that too many events would disrupt the essential elements of harmony, on which the Chinese pantheon is based.We certainly live in very interesting times where every day dramatic events pile on us, from terrorism to coup d’etat, from climate disaster to the decline of institutions and ever increasing social turmoil. It would be important, even if very difficult, to look in a nutshell why we are in this situation now - "lack of harmony" . So here goes a dramatically compressed explanation.
A sign of the time is that Germany is raising a revolt against the President of the European Commission, Jeam-Claude Juncker, whom Chancellor Angela Merkel imposed in 2014 after a strong fight with David Cameron, then a powerful British PM. The group of Visograd, , formed by Poland, Hungary, Slovaquia and the Czech Republic, which resurged from ashes, to become an anti Brussels voice, has requested to bring back the Commission under the authority of the States. When Merkel organized a meeting of the leaders of the six original founders of the EU, in Berlin, she invited Donald Tusk, the President of the Council, but not Jean-Claude Juncker, who is the President of the Commission. And Wolfgang Schauble, the German minister of Finance, has launched an appeal: “it is time to bring back Brussels under the control of the states. “
William Shakespeare would have loved to witness the Brexit. Many of his themes are evidently present: friendship and treason; truth and lies; deception and betrayal.
The Europeans went to bed Thursday night, with exit polls giving a comfortable margin of victory for those who wanted to Remain. The following morning they awakened to find that the real result was the opposite.Specialists in polling say that this happens when electors do not feel comfortable to say how they will rally voters because they are not comfortable, on a rational level, with what they will do. In other words, voters act because of their guts, not because of their brain.
Allow me a rare personal anecdote. In 1965 I met Lord Hume, who had just left the post of Prime Minister and we had a mutual sympathy. Lord Hume invited me for lunch at the Chamber of Lords. Over an extremely delicious rump of Scottish lamb, I asked if I was allowed to ask a complex question. I explained that I had started my professional career as a Kremlinologist, which had served me well in following British foreign policy. One day London was looking to Europe as its compass, and another day, to Washington. All this on the basis of small signals, difficult to detect. Could his Lordship explain to me how to address this dualism?
No mention in the media of the dangerous increase in the tension between Europe and Russia and yet Nato has just made operational in Romania a missile system, the ABM, which the United States has declared will protect it from “rogue” states, like Iran.
A new spectre is haunting the world. It is not the spectre of communism, as Marx’s Manifesto famously proclaimed. It is the spectre of fear, which has increasingly become the rationale behind politics. And, as the old proverb says, fear is not a good counselor.
Greece is again in the media, because a new negotiation is due between the embattled country and its creditors. The North-South divide of Europe is coming back with force (while the East-West relationship is increasingly looking as beyond repair). The German minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble , has come back with his peculiar view of the economy as a branch of moral and ethical discipline, and not as a reading of reality. He has asked the Greeks “to not get distracted” by the refugees crisis, and not forget their primary task, which is to pay their debt. The request is to cut 2% of the Gross National Product; in case there will not be a 3.5% budget surplus within 2018.
When the blasphemous anti Islam cartoons published in 2006 by a Danish newspaper left 205 people dead, the then Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Ekmeleddin Mehmet Ihsaoglu, went to see Javier Solana who was responsible for foreign affairs of the European Union. The position of the EU was that there was no islamophobia at all, and this was an isolated incident. Since then, this has been more or less the position of the European institutions.
The publication of the Panama Papers has now been digested, like any scandal, after just a few days. We are now getting so accustomed to scandals, that it is confusing, and the general public reaction often is: all are corrupt and politics is all about corruption.
On the 17th of April, Italians were called to vote in a national referendum, on the extension of licenses to extract petrol and gas from the seas. The government, the media and those in the economic circles, all took a position against the referendum, claiming that 2000 jobs were at a stake. The proponents of the referendum (among them five regions), lost. Italy is following a consistent trend, after the Summit on Climate Change (Paris December 2015), in which all countries (Italy included) took a solemn engagement to reduce emissions.
A total indifference has accompanied the number of refugees injured by Macedonian police in Idomeni, where more than 12 000 people, including 4 000 children have been trapped, since Austria asked Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, to prevent the continuing passage of refugees. Austria has now informed the Italian government that it will send several hundred troops to its border with Italy.
The recent Brussels massacre has created a short term reaction, which ignores a long term projection. All the debate is now about security, police reinforcement, new military strategies, as if terrorism can be solved just as a matter of public order.
The recent German elections went as predicted.. A new right wing, xenophobe party, Alternative for Germany, AFD, has emerged with force, and will bein national Parliament in 2017.This development is unprecedented in German politics since the end of the second world war, and it is widely viewedas part of a general trend - the rise of populist and xenophobe forces all over Europe.
Larry Summers, Clinton’s minister of treasury, has made few friends in life. At that time, he was instrumental in eliminating the Glass Stegall Banking Law, which since 1933 separated the bank’s customer deposits from the financial activities of the Stock Exchange, releasing a flood of money which created the present monster financial system.