Europe/Americas update: June 2 2017

UNITED NATIONS

Congratulations to the newest members of the UN Security Council:

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly elected Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland to the U.N. Security Council on Friday for a two-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

The Netherlands was elected for a one-year term after reaching a deal with Italy last year to split a two-year term. Voting between the pair was deadlocked last year so they agreed that Italy would serve on the council for 2017 and then step down to allow the Netherlands to be elected for 2018.

Good work, everyone! Enjoy yakking at each other for the next couple of years!

EUROPE

EUROPEAN UNION

With the US having announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement (full withdrawal takes 3-4 years, let’s bear that in mind), the European Union plans to go around Washington and work directly with business leaders and state governors on environmental issues. Brussels has ruled out renegotiating the agreement with the Trump administration, and says that in the absence of US leadership, it will work closely with China to reduce carbon emissions–and boy isn’t that partnership just off to a great start. I’m not sure there’s precedent for an international institution just doing an end-around on Washington to deal directly with US states, but I do think it signals an exciting new development in international affairs.

RUSSIA

Speaking on Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that US intelligence agencies are falsifying evidence that Russia helped get Donald Trump elected last year. Because as we all know, US intelligence agencies are constantly trying to cover for the failures of the Democratic Party. Putin said he’s “read” US intelligence reports on the matter, and…

Uh, wait a minute, should he be able to do that?

Putin did allow as to how Trump’s prickly relationship with the rest of the leaders of NATO may be good for Moscow and also compared anti-Russia rhetoric in the US to antisemitism, which doesn’t make any sense but, since he was being interviewed by Megyn Kelly, I assume there was no follow-up question.

MOLDOVA

I have a feeling this kind of thing is going to start happening more often:

Moldovan President Igor Dodon said on Friday that Moldova was unable to join the European Union in its current form, questioning the benefits of integration with the bloc after Britain voted to quit.

This is part of the reason why Brussels has to be seen to make Britain pay a serious price for leaving. One of the things people are going to be watching for is to see if it’s possible to get a friendly deal out of the EU without having to accept the requirements of membership.

HUNGARY

George Soros, whose Central European University remains a target for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, let Orbán have it today during a speech at the Brussels Economic Forum:

For the first time since the government of Hungary threatened to shutter the university he founded in Budapest, the American financier and philanthropist George Soros criticized the country’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orban, saying he has presided over a “mafia state.”

In a keynote speech Thursday at the annual economic forum of the European Commission, Mr. Soros cited “the deception and corruption of the mafia state the Orban regime has established” and praised those who protested a law passed in April that seemed designed to close the school, the Central European University.

Ostensibly the law would close CEU because it doesn’t operate a campus in the United States despite being registered there. In theory that could apply to any institution in a similar situation. In reality, this is a law designed specifically to shut down CEU and nothing else, which is a dangerous attack on free expression.

Orbán responded to being accused of running a mafia state by accusing Soros of…being…a mafia boss:

“This is a declaration of war, no doubt,” Orban told state radio. “The only network which operates in mafia ways, which is not transparent… in Hungary is the Soros network.”

“This is why we must insist, and I personally insist on having a parliament decision on making these organizations transparent,” Orban added.

Having been stymied somewhat by the EU in his efforts to shut down the university, Orbán is instead pushing a new law that would force NGOs with more than a small pittance (the equivalent of about $26,000) in foreign funding to register as foreign-funded, which is absurd and also marks those NGOs as immediately suspect. Naturally, this is also intended to target Soros-backed organizations.

But that’s not what really offends me here. Prime Minister Orbán, if you want to be a reactionary scumbag dictator, it’s really none of my business. People keep voting for you for some reason, so you do you. But this kind of amateur, “Jerk Store“-level comeback is beneath even the abysmal standards of regular international discourse and should, frankly, be investigated by the UN and the US Congress for possible sanctions. Get your shit together, sir.

GERMANY

The 85,000 people attending Germany’s Rock am Ring music festival were evacuated on Friday due to “concrete indications” of a terrorist threat, according to police. The three-day festival is hopefully going to restart on Saturday.

UNITED KINGDOM

Dueling polls on Friday painted two very different pictures of Prime Minister Theresa May’s immediate future. An IPSOS Mori poll projects that, although her Conservative Party’s lead over Labour has declined from 15 points to five points (!) in two weeks (!!), the Tories will still increase their majority on June 8 to 60 votes. Not a landslide, but good enough. YouGov, though, is still projecting that the Tories are going to lose their parliamentary majority altogether and be forced to form a coalition. There’s only one way to find out. But I think it’s worth reiterating that May didn’t need to do any of this.

AMERICAS

VENEZUELA

Venezuela’s political violence claims its highest-profile victim yet:

A Venezuelan judge has been shot and killed as he approached a street barricade in Caracas, in an attack that has prompted fears of growing lawlessness as the country enters its third month of political unrest.

Nelson Moncada, 37, was shot several times and then robbed of his belongings in a Caracas district that has been the frequent site of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces.

His murder brings to 61 the number of deaths associated with protests that erupted on 1 May. Victims have included supporters on both sides, bystanders and members of the security forces.

Moncada was on his way home late on Wednesday night when he was set upon at one of the many barricades thrown up on the city’s streets.

In the chaos it’s unclear who killed Moncada. The opposition may have targeted him because he’s helped preside over several cases involving opposition figures over the past few years and hasn’t exactly been friendly to their cause. Government supporters may have mistaken him for a protester and attacked him. Or he might just have been murdered in a simple mugging, committed by thieves using the protests as cover.

UNITED STATES

Here’s former CIA analyst Paul Pillar on withdrawing from the Paris Agreement:

But the president’s withdrawal is also very much a statement about Trump himself. Given the reasons that one might have expected a better decision on this issue, the pullout demonstrates that Trump’s worst and most destructive qualities are deeply entrenched. It demonstrates that things are unlikely to get much better, with many other issues, under Trump. The episode shows that Trump will continue to play to a narrow base that squeaked him through to victory last November rather than being president of all the people, let alone a leader of the free world. It shows that campaign themes and the urge not to do whatever Obama did will continue to be more important to him than enlightened interest, even enlightened self-interest. It shows that he will continue to shove aside even the most glaring and indisputable facts if they conflict with the campaign themes. It shows that his capability to focus is very short in terms of both time and space. And it shows a deficient moral sense, including with respect to what a generation bequeaths to future generations.

As citizens brace and prepare for three years and seven-plus months more of this, the problem of climate change itself should be at the top of the issues that require not just bracing and preparation but also creative thinking about how to deal with the issue as long as this kind of destructive force is in control of the U.S. government. A reminder is in order that Americans are citizens not only of the United States but also of states, localities, and civil society. Also—uniquely important to this issue—Americans are citizens of the world, the same world that climate change endangers.

I guess he’s not a fan.

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Author: DWD

writer, blogger, lover, fighter

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