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Israel’s biggest air strikes on Gaza since 2014 war

At least two teenagers in the Gaza Strip have been killed by Israeli air raids  as Israel carried out the largest daylight attack on the besieged enclave since the 2014 war.

Keith Jones

ISRAEL carried out air strikes against Gaza on 14 July 2018, killing two teenagers and injuring a dozen more people, in what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are boasting was their largest bombardment of the tiny Palestinian enclave since the seven-week, 2014 Gaza War.
Going into a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu distanced himself from a ceasefire that Egypt and the UN’s Special Mediator for the Middle East had brokered late recently between Israel, Hamas, Gaza’s governing party, and Islamic Jihad, its Iranian-backed ally. Israel, he declared, would not agree “to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons continued Netanyahu, “We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us. Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength. This is what we did. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on 15 July that the IDF attacks would continue until all missile and “arson attacks” on Israel cease.

Ineffective Molotov cocktails
The first named are small crude rockets built with pipes, the second are Molotov cocktails and flaming kites. Both are rudimentary and ineffective compared to the massive US-supplied arsenal deployed by the Israelis.
According to Israeli media, the cabinet subsequently issued a directive to the IDF to mount an “identical military response,” i.e., air and mortar strikes, to a Molotov cocktail or flaming kite as to rocket fire.
Later, speaking from Gaza City, Nickolay Mladenov, the Bulgarian diplomat who is the UN’s Special Mediator for the Middle East, said that it was “taking the concerted efforts of everyone to make sure that we step back” from “war.”
As is his wont, Netanyahu is cynically trying to paint Israel as the victim of Palestinian terrorism and aggression.

2 million poor people imprisoned on a tiny land
This under conditions where not only is Gaza little more than an Israeli concentration camp, with its 2 million impoverished people effectively imprisoned on a tiny strip of land one-tenth the size of Long Island, New York and subject to punishing Israeli attacks and economic blockades. But where, Israeli security forces have been meeting protests at the militarized security fence that divides Gaza and Israel with sniper fire, rubber bullets and tear gas since late March.
To date, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross and other observers, 138 Palestinians have been killed in IDF attacks on the protests and at least 15,000 wounded. More than 1,400 people are reported to have been struck with three bullets or more.
There has not been a single Israeli fatality during the “Great March of Return,” and not until May 14 did the Israeli government claim that a single Israeli had even been injured.
Last Friday, when more than 30,000 marched to the border fence, in what was billed as the sixteenth Great March of Return, Israeli forces again opened fire. They killed 15-year-old Othman Rami Halas and 18-year-old Muhammad Nasser Sharab, and injured more than 200 others.
A contributing factor in the size of Friday’s protest was recent Israeli actions aimed at intensifying its economic war against Gaza. These include reducing the designated fishing zone off Gaza to just six nautical miles and placing severe restrictions on the movement of goods through Kerem Shalom, the Gaza Strip’s main commercial crossing. Since last Monday, goods from Gaza cannot be imported into Israel and only Israeli-approved “humanitarian aid” is allowed into the Palestinian enclave.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad cited Israel’s lethal attack on last Friday’s protest as the reason for firing what the IDF claimed were some 200 projectiles into southern Israel.

Israel’s savage attacks
Led by the US, the imperialist powers have staunchly defended on the Palestinian March of Return protests, describing them as an appropriate use of force. In response to the latest Israeli efforts to economically strangle the Gaza Strip, the European Union issued a hypocritical statement Friday. It called on Israel to reverse its latest acts of economic war, saying they risk “aggravating the already dire economic situation in Gaza, while demanding “Hamas and other actors in Gaza … cease and refrain from violent actions and provocations against Israel.” The statement made no mention of the Israeli government’s slaughter of March of Return protesters.
Israel has repeatedly mounted air strikes on Syria. Recently, according to Israeli media, IDF warplanes attacked three military positons in Syria, supposedly in retaliation for a Syrian drone entering airspace over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Syria accused Israel of attacking a military site on the outskirts of Aleppo. With the encouragement of Washington, Israel has stepped up its aggression in recent months not only against the Palestinians, but against neighbouring states.
Netanyahu and his government have also been acting as cheerleaders for, and co-conspirators of, the Trump administration as it torpedoes the Iran nuclear deal and intensifies economic and military pressure on Tehran across the region.

Drive for regime change in Iran
On 14 July 2018, Netanyahu spoke with President Trump about his impending meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US efforts, strongly supported by Israel, to drive a wedge between Teheran and Moscow in preparation for a major escalation of the imperialist drive for regime change in Iran.
Israel’s opposition parties are attacking Netanyahu for failing to deliver on his promises to provide “security.” Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay attacked the Israeli prime minister for accepting a ceasefire that “Hamas decided on.” “When they shoot, you shoot back, hit back,” said Gabbay. “A kite is absolutely the same as a Kassem rocket.”
At the same time, Gabbay and the rest of the opposition is invoking the “crisis in southern Israel” to press Netanyahu to abandon plans to force a Knesset vote later this month on a new discriminatory “Basic Law” that would declare Israel a “Jewish state” and strip Arabic of its status as an official language. The establishment opponents of the law fear its flagrant, anti-democratic character will further undermine Israel’s international legitimacy.
With a view to winning quick approval of the proposed legislation, Netanyahu reached an agreement with his coalition partner Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home Party, to drop a clause from the bill that explicitly sanctioned state-enforced segregation. This clause, which would have empowered the state to “authorise a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community,” is being replaced by one that commits the state to promote “Jewish settlement.”
— WSWS

Comment

At least two teenagers in the Gaza Strip have been killed by Israeli air raids  as Israel carried out the largest daylight attack on the besieged enclave since the 2014 war.

Keith Jones

ISRAEL carried out air strikes against Gaza on 14 July 2018, killing two teenagers and injuring a dozen more people, in what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are boasting was their largest bombardment of the tiny Palestinian enclave since the seven-week, 2014 Gaza War.
Going into a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu distanced himself from a ceasefire that Egypt and the UN’s Special Mediator for the Middle East had brokered late recently between Israel, Hamas, Gaza’s governing party, and Islamic Jihad, its Iranian-backed ally. Israel, he declared, would not agree “to a ceasefire that would allow the continuation of terrorism by incendiary kites and balloons continued Netanyahu, “We are not prepared to accept any attacks against us. Whoever hurts us, we will hit them with great strength. This is what we did. I hope that they got the message; if not, they will get it later.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on 15 July that the IDF attacks would continue until all missile and “arson attacks” on Israel cease.

Ineffective Molotov cocktails
The first named are small crude rockets built with pipes, the second are Molotov cocktails and flaming kites. Both are rudimentary and ineffective compared to the massive US-supplied arsenal deployed by the Israelis.
According to Israeli media, the cabinet subsequently issued a directive to the IDF to mount an “identical military response,” i.e., air and mortar strikes, to a Molotov cocktail or flaming kite as to rocket fire.
Later, speaking from Gaza City, Nickolay Mladenov, the Bulgarian diplomat who is the UN’s Special Mediator for the Middle East, said that it was “taking the concerted efforts of everyone to make sure that we step back” from “war.”
As is his wont, Netanyahu is cynically trying to paint Israel as the victim of Palestinian terrorism and aggression.

2 million poor people imprisoned on a tiny land
This under conditions where not only is Gaza little more than an Israeli concentration camp, with its 2 million impoverished people effectively imprisoned on a tiny strip of land one-tenth the size of Long Island, New York and subject to punishing Israeli attacks and economic blockades. But where, Israeli security forces have been meeting protests at the militarized security fence that divides Gaza and Israel with sniper fire, rubber bullets and tear gas since late March.
To date, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross and other observers, 138 Palestinians have been killed in IDF attacks on the protests and at least 15,000 wounded. More than 1,400 people are reported to have been struck with three bullets or more.
There has not been a single Israeli fatality during the “Great March of Return,” and not until May 14 did the Israeli government claim that a single Israeli had even been injured.
Last Friday, when more than 30,000 marched to the border fence, in what was billed as the sixteenth Great March of Return, Israeli forces again opened fire. They killed 15-year-old Othman Rami Halas and 18-year-old Muhammad Nasser Sharab, and injured more than 200 others.
A contributing factor in the size of Friday’s protest was recent Israeli actions aimed at intensifying its economic war against Gaza. These include reducing the designated fishing zone off Gaza to just six nautical miles and placing severe restrictions on the movement of goods through Kerem Shalom, the Gaza Strip’s main commercial crossing. Since last Monday, goods from Gaza cannot be imported into Israel and only Israeli-approved “humanitarian aid” is allowed into the Palestinian enclave.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad cited Israel’s lethal attack on last Friday’s protest as the reason for firing what the IDF claimed were some 200 projectiles into southern Israel.

Israel’s savage attacks
Led by the US, the imperialist powers have staunchly defended on the Palestinian March of Return protests, describing them as an appropriate use of force. In response to the latest Israeli efforts to economically strangle the Gaza Strip, the European Union issued a hypocritical statement Friday. It called on Israel to reverse its latest acts of economic war, saying they risk “aggravating the already dire economic situation in Gaza, while demanding “Hamas and other actors in Gaza … cease and refrain from violent actions and provocations against Israel.” The statement made no mention of the Israeli government’s slaughter of March of Return protesters.
Israel has repeatedly mounted air strikes on Syria. Recently, according to Israeli media, IDF warplanes attacked three military positons in Syria, supposedly in retaliation for a Syrian drone entering airspace over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Syria accused Israel of attacking a military site on the outskirts of Aleppo. With the encouragement of Washington, Israel has stepped up its aggression in recent months not only against the Palestinians, but against neighbouring states.
Netanyahu and his government have also been acting as cheerleaders for, and co-conspirators of, the Trump administration as it torpedoes the Iran nuclear deal and intensifies economic and military pressure on Tehran across the region.

Drive for regime change in Iran
On 14 July 2018, Netanyahu spoke with President Trump about his impending meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US efforts, strongly supported by Israel, to drive a wedge between Teheran and Moscow in preparation for a major escalation of the imperialist drive for regime change in Iran.
Israel’s opposition parties are attacking Netanyahu for failing to deliver on his promises to provide “security.” Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay attacked the Israeli prime minister for accepting a ceasefire that “Hamas decided on.” “When they shoot, you shoot back, hit back,” said Gabbay. “A kite is absolutely the same as a Kassem rocket.”
At the same time, Gabbay and the rest of the opposition is invoking the “crisis in southern Israel” to press Netanyahu to abandon plans to force a Knesset vote later this month on a new discriminatory “Basic Law” that would declare Israel a “Jewish state” and strip Arabic of its status as an official language. The establishment opponents of the law fear its flagrant, anti-democratic character will further undermine Israel’s international legitimacy.
With a view to winning quick approval of the proposed legislation, Netanyahu reached an agreement with his coalition partner Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home Party, to drop a clause from the bill that explicitly sanctioned state-enforced segregation. This clause, which would have empowered the state to “authorise a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community,” is being replaced by one that commits the state to promote “Jewish settlement.”
— WSWS


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The Gaza slaughter of Palestinians supported by U.S.  Congress

Prof. James Petras

AT LEAST twenty-five unarmed protestors, including children have been assassinated by hundreds of Israeli snipers. Unconditional support for Israel’s oppression, imprisonment, expulsion and massacre of tens of thousands of Palestinians.
As of 7 April 2018, nearly three thousand unarmed Christian, Muslim and secular Palestinians have been wounded, over three dozens are in critical condition and at least twenty-five unarmed protestors, including children have been assassinated by hundreds of Israeli snipers and heavily armed troops shooting tank shells into crowds of civilians protesting their decades of incarceration by the racist Israeli state.
The Israeli government praised the ‘restraint and morality’ of the IDF, as did the fifty-two Major Jewish American Organizations (MJAO) who largely control the US Congress. These grotesque massacres began during the Christian Holy Week on Good Friday and Easter, coinciding with the Jewish Passover. The self-righteous officials of the MJAO and their relatives and friends broke matzos at joyful Seders as the blood of Palestinians soaked into ground at the fence containing the largest open-air prison camp in history, Gaza.
While tribal loyalties bonded the Israeli and Jewish American leaders, the politicians of the Western oligarchic electoral regimes refrained from criticizing the shocking display of brute force and even defended Israel’s cold blood mass killings of Palestinian civilians in their Gaza prison.
This paper will discuss and analyze the reasons for Israel’s willing Western accomplices and the centrality of its fifth column in the United States.

Israel’s willing accomplices
Because of the US veto power, the United Nations Security Council refused to condemn or even discuss Israel’s wanton slaughter in Gaza. The Secretary General of the UN meekly mentioned ‘violence’ and the need for an ‘investigation’ into the killings. The United States Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, prevented any investigation into the ongoing Israeli war crimes. She characterized Israel’s mass murder of unarmed Palestinians as ‘defensive action against terrorists’.
Both major US political parties defended Israel’s crimes against humanity and threatened critics, labeling them as ‘hypocrites’, while deflecting attention away from the state slaughter of Palestinian civilians, pointing to the behavior of the Arab countries.
The mass media, including all the major television, newspaper and radio outlets echoed the vituperative speeches of Israel’s leaders.

US-Israel lobby ‘52 MJAO’
All the major political lobbies in Washington followed the leading arm of the US-Israel lobby, the ‘52 MJAO’.
The key question is what explains the power of Israel to continuously commit crimes against humanity with impunity?
Clearly Israel, by itself, lacks the economic, political and media power to influence international organizations. Nor does Israel exercise sufficient ‘soft power’ or cultural influence to neutralize the tens of millions of critics around the world with any persuasive arguments . . . except in the United States.
Where does the power that protects Israel from any consequences for its brutal crimes reside?
The key to Israel’s impunity lies in a chain of command beginning with the local grass roots of hundreds of fanatical, unconditional Zionist-Israel First organizations in the US.
Every major and minor US city has local Zionist-councils who use their influence to intimidate local professional, business, political and media groups into ensuring that critics are censored and Israel’s war crimes are covered up. The tactics range from ‘friendly’ influence within local civic organizations to outright threats, bullying and slander.
Local Zionist organizations are linked to state-wide and national political and economic confederations that influence the nomination and financing of all candidates, the elected officials and the composition of editorial boards of the major media outlets.

Has the Israel Lobby Destroyed Americans’ First Amendment Rights?
Equally important, Zionist activists pressure and recruit leaders of civil society groups through guided propaganda tours to Israel. They enforce obedience and submission to Zionist objectives by blacklisting critics, contacting their places of employment and demanding they be fired. They employ even more repressive tactics against perceived threats to Israel’s interests, including threatening phone calls and unwelcome ‘visits’. At the commanding heights of the Zionist pyramid, hundreds of billionaires and millionaires finance and influence the corporate mass media, the political parties and conservative and liberal religious and educational institutions and demand adherence to Israel’s agenda.
The Zionist power configuration (ZPC) parlays its influence far beyond its dues-paying members, who, in reality, comprises only a very tiny fraction of the US population.
Wider networks extend and magnify the Zionist presence, multiplying power centers up to the highest levels of public policy making. The ideological influence of the Israel Fifth Column is concentrated on a single issue: Defending Israel and its crimes against humanity. They succeed because of their enormous impact on the US role in world politics, including Washington’s trade and military policy in strategic regions, especially in the Middle East.

Murdering unarmed civilians in Gaza
Israel’s power to freely murder unarmed civilians in Gaza is derived from the Fifth Column’s influence in the US. Without it Israel would have no power to block the UN from imposing sanctions, or the International Court of Justice from convening a tribunal for war crimes. Israel would not have nuclear weapons or advanced missiles to threaten its neighbors and destabilize the hundreds of millions of civilians who live in the greater Middle East, were it not for the its US-based Zionist power configuration. The nation of Israel would be ‘confined’ within internationally agreed borders and it would be forced to reverse its policy of ethnic cleansing. Israel would have to become a diverse – society based on laws, instead of a lawless, apartheid ethno-fascist police state dedicated to oppressing half of the people within its declared and occupied territories.
[Global Research, April 08, 2018]

Comment

Prof. James Petras

AT LEAST twenty-five unarmed protestors, including children have been assassinated by hundreds of Israeli snipers. Unconditional support for Israel’s oppression, imprisonment, expulsion and massacre of tens of thousands of Palestinians.
As of 7 April 2018, nearly three thousand unarmed Christian, Muslim and secular Palestinians have been wounded, over three dozens are in critical condition and at least twenty-five unarmed protestors, including children have been assassinated by hundreds of Israeli snipers and heavily armed troops shooting tank shells into crowds of civilians protesting their decades of incarceration by the racist Israeli state.
The Israeli government praised the ‘restraint and morality’ of the IDF, as did the fifty-two Major Jewish American Organizations (MJAO) who largely control the US Congress. These grotesque massacres began during the Christian Holy Week on Good Friday and Easter, coinciding with the Jewish Passover. The self-righteous officials of the MJAO and their relatives and friends broke matzos at joyful Seders as the blood of Palestinians soaked into ground at the fence containing the largest open-air prison camp in history, Gaza.
While tribal loyalties bonded the Israeli and Jewish American leaders, the politicians of the Western oligarchic electoral regimes refrained from criticizing the shocking display of brute force and even defended Israel’s cold blood mass killings of Palestinian civilians in their Gaza prison.
This paper will discuss and analyze the reasons for Israel’s willing Western accomplices and the centrality of its fifth column in the United States.

Israel’s willing accomplices
Because of the US veto power, the United Nations Security Council refused to condemn or even discuss Israel’s wanton slaughter in Gaza. The Secretary General of the UN meekly mentioned ‘violence’ and the need for an ‘investigation’ into the killings. The United States Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, prevented any investigation into the ongoing Israeli war crimes. She characterized Israel’s mass murder of unarmed Palestinians as ‘defensive action against terrorists’.
Both major US political parties defended Israel’s crimes against humanity and threatened critics, labeling them as ‘hypocrites’, while deflecting attention away from the state slaughter of Palestinian civilians, pointing to the behavior of the Arab countries.
The mass media, including all the major television, newspaper and radio outlets echoed the vituperative speeches of Israel’s leaders.

US-Israel lobby ‘52 MJAO’
All the major political lobbies in Washington followed the leading arm of the US-Israel lobby, the ‘52 MJAO’.
The key question is what explains the power of Israel to continuously commit crimes against humanity with impunity?
Clearly Israel, by itself, lacks the economic, political and media power to influence international organizations. Nor does Israel exercise sufficient ‘soft power’ or cultural influence to neutralize the tens of millions of critics around the world with any persuasive arguments . . . except in the United States.
Where does the power that protects Israel from any consequences for its brutal crimes reside?
The key to Israel’s impunity lies in a chain of command beginning with the local grass roots of hundreds of fanatical, unconditional Zionist-Israel First organizations in the US.
Every major and minor US city has local Zionist-councils who use their influence to intimidate local professional, business, political and media groups into ensuring that critics are censored and Israel’s war crimes are covered up. The tactics range from ‘friendly’ influence within local civic organizations to outright threats, bullying and slander.
Local Zionist organizations are linked to state-wide and national political and economic confederations that influence the nomination and financing of all candidates, the elected officials and the composition of editorial boards of the major media outlets.

Has the Israel Lobby Destroyed Americans’ First Amendment Rights?
Equally important, Zionist activists pressure and recruit leaders of civil society groups through guided propaganda tours to Israel. They enforce obedience and submission to Zionist objectives by blacklisting critics, contacting their places of employment and demanding they be fired. They employ even more repressive tactics against perceived threats to Israel’s interests, including threatening phone calls and unwelcome ‘visits’. At the commanding heights of the Zionist pyramid, hundreds of billionaires and millionaires finance and influence the corporate mass media, the political parties and conservative and liberal religious and educational institutions and demand adherence to Israel’s agenda.
The Zionist power configuration (ZPC) parlays its influence far beyond its dues-paying members, who, in reality, comprises only a very tiny fraction of the US population.
Wider networks extend and magnify the Zionist presence, multiplying power centers up to the highest levels of public policy making. The ideological influence of the Israel Fifth Column is concentrated on a single issue: Defending Israel and its crimes against humanity. They succeed because of their enormous impact on the US role in world politics, including Washington’s trade and military policy in strategic regions, especially in the Middle East.

Murdering unarmed civilians in Gaza
Israel’s power to freely murder unarmed civilians in Gaza is derived from the Fifth Column’s influence in the US. Without it Israel would have no power to block the UN from imposing sanctions, or the International Court of Justice from convening a tribunal for war crimes. Israel would not have nuclear weapons or advanced missiles to threaten its neighbors and destabilize the hundreds of millions of civilians who live in the greater Middle East, were it not for the its US-based Zionist power configuration. The nation of Israel would be ‘confined’ within internationally agreed borders and it would be forced to reverse its policy of ethnic cleansing. Israel would have to become a diverse – society based on laws, instead of a lawless, apartheid ethno-fascist police state dedicated to oppressing half of the people within its declared and occupied territories.
[Global Research, April 08, 2018]


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LONDON SUMMIT FAILURE
European powers fear loss of influence in Balkans

Julie Hyland

THE European Union (EU) summit on the West Balkans in London on 16 July 2018 was overshadowed by the political crisis in the Conservative government over Brexit.
Political and business leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia attended, along with several EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
The event was part of the Berlin Process, set up by Germany in 2014. It was intended to keep the Balkan countries firmly on side, as part of EU and NATO moves against Russia, under conditions in which the EU effectively halted the accession process following the 2008 financial crash. Talk now is that no country will be accepted before 2025 at the earliest.
Commentators had already noted the irony of London hosting the summit when it is attempting to exit the EU. But the UK is keen to prove that it will continue to play a role in Europe—especially in such strategic areas—post-Brexit.
The government press release on the meeting stated, “The UK wants a strong, stable and prosperous Western Balkans region. By hosting the summit in London, we demonstrate our continued interest and involvement in the stability of the region beyond our exit from the EU.”
More fundamentally, the London-based think tank Emerging Europe noted the comments of UK-based Serbian media correspondent Siniša Lepojevi?:
“The Balkans, and namely those Balkan countries that are not EU members, remain the only space where the British can ‘flex their muscles,’ because they will exit the EU in March 2019. They need a presence in this part of Europe, because after Brexit, London will have nothing but NATO and the Western Balkans.”
It was intended that Boris Johnson—as foreign secretary—would announce an increase in funding to the region to £80 million in 2020-2021 and the launch of a UK package of £10 million to “build digital skills and employment prospects” for young people in the region, as part of a Global-trade Entrepreneur Programme. But his audience was left waiting.
Initially it was announced that Johnson was delayed due to an urgent meeting on the latest “Novichok” poisonings in Salisbury. It soon emerged that he was, in fact, gathered with his advisers, preparing his resignation from the cabinet over Prime Minister Theresa May’s “soft-Brexit” proposals.
In the end, despite joint declarations on “Good Neighbourly Relations, War Crimes and Missing Persons” and “Principles of Information-Exchange in the field of Law Enforcement,” little of a concrete character came out of the gathering.
The EU has committed to invest up to €150 million in 2019-2020, to help “unlock private investment in a broad range of sectors ... thus tackling key bottlenecks hampering access to finance in the region.”
But there was no movement on accession. Apart from Albania, the six Western Balkan countries that now want to join the EU (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia) emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia, which was actively promoted by the US and European powers to secure their hegemony over the Balkans.
But, as noted previously, the regimes they helped bring to power are so corrupt and tied in with organised crime that delivering on the promise of EU membership would further destabilise the bloc.
In May, the EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia had postponed opening membership talks with Macedonia and Albania and made no mention of EU membership or enlargement more specifically. This was despite the Greece-Macedonia deal to resolve the 25-year dispute over the latter’s name, so that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FRYOM) now becomes North Macedonia.
Just days after the London summit, the EU imposed new conditions on Bulgaria’s application to join the euro, making it dependent on fulfilling extra criteria. These include passing European Central Bank stress tests and asset quality reviews of its banks before its application will even begin to be considered in July 2019. The Financial Times opined that the obstacles on Bulgaria—which joined the EU in 2007—were proof that the EU was “quietly changing its criteria for eurozone membership” out of concern for financial stability.
However, failure to integrate the west Balkan countries has opened up space in the region for Europe and Britain’s competitors. It threatens to become a gaping hole under conditions in which US President Donald Trump has thrown a hand grenade into the transatlantic alliance, making clear he favours the break-up of the EU and has even criticised NATO.
The summit debacle caused consternation in Britain’s ruling circles.
The Economist complained, “Thanks to Boris Johnson, a farcical west-Balkan summit in London” at times resembled a “Carry On movie” [a famous and much-loved series of British comedy films].
The Financial Times warned, “EU’s waning influence opens a dangerous vacuum in the Balkans,” writing that Johnson’s no-show was a “fitting metaphor” for Western European leaders’ “disinterest in the Balkans.”
Complaining that a “historic opportunity ... is at risk of being lost,” it continued that it has opened “a vacuum that other powers—China and Russia—are seeking to fill.”
The FT noted that only the previous weekend, China had organised its own summit with 16 central and eastern European countries in Bulgaria, “where Beijing lavished pledges of investment,” and accused Russia of “mischief-making” in trying to thwart NATO expansion.
The seventh CEEC-China summit comes as Beijing invests heavily in the region as part of its $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative. It has put millions into building and repairing infrastructure in Serbia—heavily damaged in NATO bombings some 20 years ago—including a $740 million highway, connecting Belgrade with Montenegro, and a $3 billion investment project for a 350km high speed rail link between Belgrade and Budapest.
China is accused of politically backing Serbia against EU/US demands that it must recognise Kosovo, while Belgrade is regarded as a Russian ally.
The Chinese company COSCO operates the Greek port of Piraeus, one of several major investments in the country that has been ravaged by EU austerity. China Everbright Group owns Tirana International Airport, in Albania, while Chinese corporations are invested in the country’s oilfields.
Poland and Hungary are also part of the 16+1 initiative, and the county’s right-wing governments have repeatedly clashed with the EU. Politico, writing on Trump’s denunciations of Germany—which is the target of US sanctions against the EU—cited James Carafano, of the right-wing conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation. Carafano noted “that some countries in Eastern and Central Europe resent Germany’s influence on the continent and might take pleasure in Trump’s approach to Berlin. ‘People say “Why is he making so many enemies in Europe?” but I say, “He might be making a lot of friends in Europe”,’ Carafano said, mentioning Poland as one example.”
— WSWS

Comment

Julie Hyland

THE European Union (EU) summit on the West Balkans in London on 16 July 2018 was overshadowed by the political crisis in the Conservative government over Brexit.
Political and business leaders from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia attended, along with several EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
The event was part of the Berlin Process, set up by Germany in 2014. It was intended to keep the Balkan countries firmly on side, as part of EU and NATO moves against Russia, under conditions in which the EU effectively halted the accession process following the 2008 financial crash. Talk now is that no country will be accepted before 2025 at the earliest.
Commentators had already noted the irony of London hosting the summit when it is attempting to exit the EU. But the UK is keen to prove that it will continue to play a role in Europe—especially in such strategic areas—post-Brexit.
The government press release on the meeting stated, “The UK wants a strong, stable and prosperous Western Balkans region. By hosting the summit in London, we demonstrate our continued interest and involvement in the stability of the region beyond our exit from the EU.”
More fundamentally, the London-based think tank Emerging Europe noted the comments of UK-based Serbian media correspondent Siniša Lepojevi?:
“The Balkans, and namely those Balkan countries that are not EU members, remain the only space where the British can ‘flex their muscles,’ because they will exit the EU in March 2019. They need a presence in this part of Europe, because after Brexit, London will have nothing but NATO and the Western Balkans.”
It was intended that Boris Johnson—as foreign secretary—would announce an increase in funding to the region to £80 million in 2020-2021 and the launch of a UK package of £10 million to “build digital skills and employment prospects” for young people in the region, as part of a Global-trade Entrepreneur Programme. But his audience was left waiting.
Initially it was announced that Johnson was delayed due to an urgent meeting on the latest “Novichok” poisonings in Salisbury. It soon emerged that he was, in fact, gathered with his advisers, preparing his resignation from the cabinet over Prime Minister Theresa May’s “soft-Brexit” proposals.
In the end, despite joint declarations on “Good Neighbourly Relations, War Crimes and Missing Persons” and “Principles of Information-Exchange in the field of Law Enforcement,” little of a concrete character came out of the gathering.
The EU has committed to invest up to €150 million in 2019-2020, to help “unlock private investment in a broad range of sectors ... thus tackling key bottlenecks hampering access to finance in the region.”
But there was no movement on accession. Apart from Albania, the six Western Balkan countries that now want to join the EU (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia) emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia, which was actively promoted by the US and European powers to secure their hegemony over the Balkans.
But, as noted previously, the regimes they helped bring to power are so corrupt and tied in with organised crime that delivering on the promise of EU membership would further destabilise the bloc.
In May, the EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia had postponed opening membership talks with Macedonia and Albania and made no mention of EU membership or enlargement more specifically. This was despite the Greece-Macedonia deal to resolve the 25-year dispute over the latter’s name, so that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FRYOM) now becomes North Macedonia.
Just days after the London summit, the EU imposed new conditions on Bulgaria’s application to join the euro, making it dependent on fulfilling extra criteria. These include passing European Central Bank stress tests and asset quality reviews of its banks before its application will even begin to be considered in July 2019. The Financial Times opined that the obstacles on Bulgaria—which joined the EU in 2007—were proof that the EU was “quietly changing its criteria for eurozone membership” out of concern for financial stability.
However, failure to integrate the west Balkan countries has opened up space in the region for Europe and Britain’s competitors. It threatens to become a gaping hole under conditions in which US President Donald Trump has thrown a hand grenade into the transatlantic alliance, making clear he favours the break-up of the EU and has even criticised NATO.
The summit debacle caused consternation in Britain’s ruling circles.
The Economist complained, “Thanks to Boris Johnson, a farcical west-Balkan summit in London” at times resembled a “Carry On movie” [a famous and much-loved series of British comedy films].
The Financial Times warned, “EU’s waning influence opens a dangerous vacuum in the Balkans,” writing that Johnson’s no-show was a “fitting metaphor” for Western European leaders’ “disinterest in the Balkans.”
Complaining that a “historic opportunity ... is at risk of being lost,” it continued that it has opened “a vacuum that other powers—China and Russia—are seeking to fill.”
The FT noted that only the previous weekend, China had organised its own summit with 16 central and eastern European countries in Bulgaria, “where Beijing lavished pledges of investment,” and accused Russia of “mischief-making” in trying to thwart NATO expansion.
The seventh CEEC-China summit comes as Beijing invests heavily in the region as part of its $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative. It has put millions into building and repairing infrastructure in Serbia—heavily damaged in NATO bombings some 20 years ago—including a $740 million highway, connecting Belgrade with Montenegro, and a $3 billion investment project for a 350km high speed rail link between Belgrade and Budapest.
China is accused of politically backing Serbia against EU/US demands that it must recognise Kosovo, while Belgrade is regarded as a Russian ally.
The Chinese company COSCO operates the Greek port of Piraeus, one of several major investments in the country that has been ravaged by EU austerity. China Everbright Group owns Tirana International Airport, in Albania, while Chinese corporations are invested in the country’s oilfields.
Poland and Hungary are also part of the 16+1 initiative, and the county’s right-wing governments have repeatedly clashed with the EU. Politico, writing on Trump’s denunciations of Germany—which is the target of US sanctions against the EU—cited James Carafano, of the right-wing conservative Washington-based Heritage Foundation. Carafano noted “that some countries in Eastern and Central Europe resent Germany’s influence on the continent and might take pleasure in Trump’s approach to Berlin. ‘People say “Why is he making so many enemies in Europe?” but I say, “He might be making a lot of friends in Europe”,’ Carafano said, mentioning Poland as one example.”
— WSWS


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