Now you CETA, now you don’t

Posted October 14, 2016 on 5:57 pm | In the category Canada, Europe, Germany, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

Picture this scene. You are sitting in the splendid bier garden in front of the splendid Jagdschloss on Rotkreuzplatz in splendid Munich on a splendid June afternoon, minding your own business while meditating on the Augustiner situated in front of you, when someone comes along and staples a poster on one of the trees affording you shade. Oh no, the political junkies have dared to come into an area off limits to them. One of the Lederhosen or Dindl servers will soon remove this poster but what is it all about? Why, it says STOPP CETA!
What is that? Never heard of it. Read on and you find out it is the proposed Canada-European Free Trade Pact. They never pay any attention here to Canada, unless the hockey team is pummelling the German one, so what do they care about a free trade pact? As it turns out, by mid-October this is the headline event in the papers. On October 27 Prime Minister Trudeau, his photo once again prominently displayed (Journalists just eat up his good looks and youth on a continent where politics is dominated by unappealing old men – Merkel is an exception but not on the youth side), is supposed to sign the CETA agreement, already approved by the EU representatives. But now that the UK has bizarrely left (or so it seems) the European club, the fractures in the among unity of the rest of Europe are becoming more and more evident.
It turns out that CETA, and any foreign agreement approved by the EU must after that be approved by the parliaments of each country. BREXIT has changed the rules on this.  If the Brits can just take their ball and go home, so can anybody else on the supposed team. And anybody else includes some real wild cards these days; Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, even Denmark and the Nethelands, have very different views about immigration and globalization, for instance, than do Germany and Sweden.
But experts are willing to bet that all of these countries will sign the document when it is on the table in Brussels on October 27.After all, as has been pointed out by many leaders, if you can’t make a free-trade deal with Canada, the non-European land that is closest in its laws and general views to those of Europe, who could they make a deal with?
But they had all forgotten Belgium, the least governable country in the EU. It turns out, as they now all know, that the Belgian constitution says that each of the three main parts of Belgium – the French-speaking Walloons in the south, multilingual Brusselians in the centre and the Dutch-speaking Flems of the north – must agree unanimously or the government in Brussels cannot give Belgian approval. And now it is the Walloons who seem to be leaning to saying no, thus scuttling the whole deal, which took 7 years of negotiate. No doubt they we will be facing tremendous pressure in the next two weeks – the French President is there as we speak – but it may be that this CETA Non-Pact will signal the end of a functioning united Europe – and of the Euro, if it does not get signed on that table on October 27.

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Merkel, Clinton and Trump

Posted October 12, 2016 on 7:54 pm | In the category Africa, Canada, Germany, Merkel | by Mackenzie Brothers

On October 9, 2008 the day of the second US presidential (so-called) debate in Missouri, Angela Merkel was in Mali, making the very difficult trip to a country torn in half by east/west political and religious disputes that have turned it into a battleground for a brutal civil war. It is clearly one of the most dangerous parts of Africa or for that matter anywhere, and it is widely expected that Canada will soon send special forces troops to join the French contingent there in attempting to help restore order to a battered land, once better known for its splendid music.  And that seems to be the only reason that Kanzlerin Merkel was also there.

It was exactly sixteen years earlier to the day that Angela Merkel  became the Kanzlerin of the recently reunited Federal Republic of Germany. The daughter of a Lutheran pastor in the old East German Peoples Republic, she was relatively young and not very experienced at  50, and it’s  fair to say, in retrospect, that no-one imagined at the time  that she was potentially  a long-term Powerfrau in the tricky world of German politics, and that within a decade she would enjoy a reputation  as  the most powerful and respected government leader  anywhere nor that  she would soon become the most honoured politician in the world.  But in the sixteen years during which she became the longest-ruling leader on a floundering continent where, after a catastrophic war that had ended little more than a half-century before her inauguration,  Germany has under her leadership become the uncontested economic and arguably even moral centre of Europe.
And yet there she was on a day when she could have enjoyed a bright spotlight in Berlin, offering help to a country in great need of it, far from home and very far from a place that could bring her political gains.  At home in this last year she has made decisions declaring  Germany’s willingness to accept  virtually all refugees (almost a million at this point) from a  terrible war zone, and that has cost her some popularity.  But she still says “Wir schaffen es” (“We’ll make it work”) and  she still enjoys the support of more than 50% of the German population.  Most experts believe her party will win the upcoming German election if she decides to run again.

Hard to imagine that on that same day, the two candidates running for Head of State of the United States, still the most powerful military presence in the world, could put on such an embarrassing and demeaning piece of sordid entertainment as the so-called debate.  One can forgive the female candidate, Hillary Clinton, for gradually starting  to look like a smiling robot, since that must have been  because the overwhelming thuggery of her opponent Mr. Trump, often lurking threateningly just behind her,  was something she could not have been prepared for.  But what does it say about the political system that allowed such a spectacle to take place after it slowly simmered into a boil in the course of more than a year?  My advice for Mme Clinton is to take a break after she wins (which she will) and go over to Berlin and have a long talk with  the woman who  has walked the walk rather than just talk the talk.

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