Barosso and Oettinger messed up South Stream

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 18/02/15

Soon after he was appointed Commission Vice President for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič started lobbying Russia to return to the South Stream gas pipeline project. The same project was frozen by direct orders of former Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

First episode: Barroso stops South Stream by telling the former Bulgarian PM Plamen Oresharski that the commission will slam his country with infringements it cannot afford.
This happened against the background of the Ukraine crisis. The message was clear: the Commission doesn’t want to open its doors for a project detrimental to Ukraine.
Six months have elapsed. Barroso has been replaced by Jean-Claude Juncker, Oresharski has been replaced by Boyko Borissov. And the Ukraine crisis is at the brink of becoming an outright war.
So Borissov comes to Brussels and warns Šefčovič of an “energy catastrophe” for his country following the freezing of South Stream.’ Exactly one month before Putin said in Turkey that Russia is fed up with Bulgaria’s blocking the project, and that the Russian gas will arrive on European territory, but in Turkey instead. And the project is no longer called “South Stream, but Turkish Stream”.
The next day after his meeting with Borissov Šefčovič goes to Russia and asks Gazprom to revert to the old South Stream project. He was not successful, but what happened to the previous warnings to Bulgaria about infringements?
Russia obviously takes the message seriously, because Putin took in Budapest yesterday (17 February) a U-turn, announcing that Russia has not given up South Stream, which he had himself declared dead in December.
Now the Commission is having second thoughts about the project and has asked the Russian side to reconsider Bulgaria for implementing it, Putin said.
But I don’t think it was only Putin who made a U-turn. What made the Juncker Commission make a U-turn with respect to the Barroso commission? Isn’t this the recognition of a major mistake? Thanks to Barroso, and to the then energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, the new South Stream would be dependent, apart from Russia, from Turkey.

My old friend Jan Eliasson

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 04/02/15

We know each other from 1986, when I was a member of the Bulgarian delegation to the CSCE conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Stockholm. (CSCE was the predecessor of OSCE). This was a very important forum, as it took place after the downing of Korean airliner KAL 007 while the USSR and the USA had basically cut contacts.

Except in Stockholm, where the delegations from 35 countries, including the USSR and the USA, were meeting on a daily basis, and diplomats were delivering speeches, attending receptions and parties almost every evening. And basically fraternising in spite of the Cold War.
Eliasson was the Secretary General of the conference. Sweden was a remarkable host, and provided the magnificent building at Sergels Torg, in the centre of Stockholm, as venue for the conference. As a neutral country Sweden was also a facilitator for compromises.
It was therefore not a surprise when I learned in 2012 that Jan Eliasson, whom I consider a friend, became the UN Deputy Secretary General. It is relatively easy for Swedish diplomats well known by other countries to obtain support across the board for such posts.
I didn’t try to contact him, saying to myself that sooner or later, we will see each other. This happened yesterday in Brussels and I wrote this article: UN’s Eliasson: There is no peace without development
One episode I will never forget during the Stockholm conference was when Gorbachev took over and decided to send a signal to the West that there was a new kind of interlocutor in the Kremlin.
The Soviet general who was the number two in their delegation came to me and two other colleagues of the Bulgarian delegation in the cafeteria of the conference.
He said: Guys, we decided to adopt the American proposals.
We said: That’s a veeery good joke.
In fact, the USA were proposing limits to the number of troops participating in military exercises, and the possibility of sending observers to such exercises. In contrast, the Warsaw pact countries proposed completely different type of measures such as nuclear-weapon free zones. Apparently there was no common ground.
But the general said: In fact, at second reading, the US proposals are not so bad, and we will accept them. I wanted to tell you this before Russian ambassador Grinevsky would announce it.
At this precise moment I realised that the world was going to change more and faster than most people thought. And of course Sweden had been a facilitator for this change.
Yesterday Eliasson recognised me and said: Hey, you still look young.

Who leaked the Luxleaks?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 28/11/14

Yesterday a Ukrainian television asked me who leaked the Luxleaks. Not that they thought I knew. Their basic question was “Quid prodest”, who benefits from Luxleaks? They had in mind their country, which badly needs a strong Europe, rather than a weak one. The assumption is that by weakening Juncker, Europe is weakened. So who was pulling the strings?

Short question, short answer.

I said two things. First, I have no doubts that the Luxleaks, the famous Luxembourg tax files, were given to journalists by an intelligence service. We journalists are not equipped to get such files ourselves.
Secondly, the respective intelligence service has obviously been tasked to weaken Juncker. And indirectly, to weaken the EU.

I said I could think of two leaders who want to weaken the EU – David Cameron and Vladimir Putin. Cameron was against the appointment of Juncker in the first place, and according to my information, the Luxleaks were given to the journalistic consortium in May. That’s when Juncker won the European elections as “spitzenkandidat”.
Also, now that Luxembourg is under the spotlight, the London City can breathe.
But on the other hand, Luxleaks is now pushing the EU toward tax harmonisation, something London doesn’t want.

Putin too would like to weaken the EU, I said, and didn’t elaborate, as I was speaking to a Ukrainian audience.

Journalists protect their sources. That’s good; our profession is based on this trust. Journalists have also the duty not to be manipulated. Should they have refused to run the files? It’s a tough choice, because the Luxleaks are very valuable material.

L’Europe germano-allemande

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 04/11/14

I don’t know how to say it in English, but a French-speaking friend of mine calls it L’Europe germano-allemande. For several decades we were used to the French-German tandem, but now we have Germany all over the place.

The real leaders of the two big political families are Germans – Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz. I am the last one to believe that the official leaders, like Manfred Weber (German as well) or Gianni Pittella hold the real power in EPP and S&D.
Behind the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker there is Germany and behind the Council President Donald Tusk there is Germany again. I am one of those who strongly believe that Tusk’s appointment is a long-planned Berlin project.
When important inter-institutional decisions need to be taken, the German spokesperson of Juncker calls the German Secretary General of the European Parliament. Or one “spitzenkandidat” calls the other. Martin Selmayr and Klaus Welle played ball very well over the Commissioners’ hearings, and that’s why the Juncker team was appointed on time, for the first time since 1994 when the system of hearings was introduced. How did they do it? One example is by agreeing the rules –like the short answers which do not allow the commissioners-designate to get into big trouble.
German players, German arbiters. German football is excellent, but German Christian democrats playing ball with German Social Democrats at all major derbies on the European football field, does it make much sense? Even if here or there, there is a Polish player?
My short forecast is that the football hooligans with Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and Le Front National in France in the forefront, will steal the show at some point soon. Affaire à suivre.

Which MEPs voted against EU-Ukraine association?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 17/09/14

Basically extreme-left and extreme-right MEPs voted against the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, according to the monitoring by Vote Watch Europe.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg and the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv simultaneously ratified yesterday (16 September) the landmark EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (AA).

MEPs backed the agreement with 535 votes in favour, 127 against and 35 abstentions. The monitoring by Vote Watch Europe provided insight as to how each individual MEP voted, including the names of the MEPs.
Accordingly, 14 MEPs from Austria vote for and 4 against. Those who voted against are from the far-right Freedom party.
From Belgium, 18 MEPs voted for and one MEP from the centre-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) voted against.
From Bulgaria, all 14 MEPs voted for, with no votes against and no abstentions.
Also from Croatia, all 11 MEPs voted for, without negative votes or abstentions.
From Cyprus, 4 MEPs voted for and 2 against. Those who voted against are from the communist “Progressive Party of Working People – Left – New forces”.
From the Czech Republic, 15 MEPs voted in favour and 4 against. One of them, Jan Keller, is a Social Democrat, another one, Petr Mach is from the Eurosceptic “Party of Free Citizens” and three are from the Communist party.
From Denmark, 6 MPEPs voted for. The only MEP who voted against is from the Eurosceptic “Peoples’ movement against the EU”.
All six MEPs from Estonia voted for, without negative votes or abstentions.
From Finland, 12 MEPs voted for, nobody voted against and one communist MEP abstained.
France is the country with the largest number of votes against. 42 French MEPs voted for and 27 against, of which 24 from the far-right Front National and 4 from extreme left forces.
From Germany, 73 MEPs voted for, and 10 against. One of those voting against is from the green “Ecology-Democratic Party”, one is from the Eurosceptic “Alternative for Germany, five are from the leftist “Die Linke” and one is from the extreme-right “Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands”.
Greece is the only country from which more MEPs voted against. Eight MEPs voted for, and 12 against: 6 from the leftist Syriza, two from the Communist party, one from the extreme right “Golden Dawn”, one from the Eurosceptic party “Independent Greeks”.
From Hungary, 18 MEPs voted against and two from the extreme-right Jobbik party voted against.
From Ireland 6 MEPs voted for and 3 against: one from the leftist party Baile Átha Cliath and two from Sinn Féin, which is also associated to the leftist GUE/NGL group.
From Italy 46 voted for and 8 against, of which 3 from the “Tspiras list” and 5 from the separatist “Lega Nord”. Eighteen Italian MEPs abstained, of which 17 from the “Five Star Movement” of Beppe Grillo and one from Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia”.
From Latvia 7 MEPs voted for and one green MEP against.
All 10 MEPs from Lithuania voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
Also all 6 MEPs from Luxembourg voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
From Malta, 5 MEPs voted for and a socialist MEP abstained.
From the Netherlands, 14 voted for and 7 against. Three of them are from leftist forves and four are from the extreme-right Party of Freedom.
From Romania, all 28 MEPs voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
From Slovakia, 11 MEPs voted for and 2 abstained: one of them being from the socialist SMER party, and one from the liberal “Freedom and Solidarity” party.
From Slovenia, all 7 MEPs voted for, without votes against or abstentions.
From Spain, 41 MEPs voted for, 10 voted against and one abstained. Those who voted against are from leftist forces and the one who abstained is from a green party.
From Sweden 13 MEPs voted for and 2 against. Those who voted against are from the far-right “Sweden Democrats”.
From the UK, 39 MEPs voted for, 22 against and two abstained. The UKIP party massively voted against, while one conservative and one green MEP abstained.

More details: http://www.votewatch.eu/en/term8-eu-ukra…

Macedonia rams into yet another ‘historic’ controversy with Bulgaria

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 15/09/14

“On the occasion of the 1150th anniversary of the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia, the Czech Television and Barrandov Studios Prague, along with co-producers from Slovakia and Slovenia, have shot a film entitled “Cyril and Methodius – The Apostles of the Slavs“. This historical saga, under the directorship of Petr Nikolaev, is advertised as the first Czech movie in the “docudrama” style (similar to analogous historical productions of BBC).

The film publicity, however, has angered the spirits on the Balkan Peninsula, who have been focused on the following claims:

“This Czech-Slovak project is conceived as Pan-European and takes into account also the historical facts and events that have relevance for other nations, including the Poles, Russians, Macedonians, Serbs, Greeks, etc. The project was also presented to “His All Holiness” Bartholomew (Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, the presiding Archbishop of the World Orthodox Church) and received a positive response.”

Firstly, a number of reactions have come from Bulgaria. As is known, the First Bulgarian Empire saved the work of the two holy brothers Cyril and Methodius by hospitably accepting a group of their disciples and appointing them as prelates, bishops and teaching priests in the medieval Literary Schools of Preslav and Ohrid to pioneer the translation of religious books to Slavic (Old Bulgarian) language, thereby spreading throughout Europe both the Glagolian Slavic script and the in situ created Cyrillic Slavic alphabet (which is today used by many nations around the globe). Hence, the Bulgarian public opinion and media have been revolted by the omission of Bulgarians among the nations which the film addresses.

Simultaneously, the Greek observers and media have been extremely irritated by the explicit mention of “Macedonians” as a nation whose ethnicity is currently questioned by both Greece and Bulgaria, due to numerous historical reasons. Greek media have also been astonished that a film with such claims has allegedly been endorsed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, given his firm previous position not to recognise either a Macedonian state name, nation and language (as per the steady policy of Greece), or a Macedonian Orthodox Church (as a result of its uncanonical schism with the Serbian Orthodox Church).

In turn, the media in the Republic of Macedonia have indeed been excited by the alleged “recognition” of a Macedonian nation by the Czech movie makers and the Ecumenical Patriarch. Thus, the Macedonian media did not miss the opportunity to bombard their EU neighbours with a new massive cannonade of hatred speech by using plenty of rather colourful epithets and expressions (often of racist nature) which make every untrained ear to blush from shame.

As a result of all this media noise, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has issued an official statement on behalf of His All Holiness Bartholomew to declare the following:

“In connection with mass media publications in Greece, FYROM, Bulgaria and elsewhere regarding the production of a Czech film about the life of the holy Thessaloniki Apostles Cyril and Methodius, which concern a presumed position allegedly expressed by His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, we state hereby that the Patriarch has nothing to do with the case of this film, whence we categorically deny everything published on that occasion.”

In the light of this unambiguous declaration, the most logical question is what might be the motivation which urged the cinema makers to advertise their film by misusing the Ecumenical Patriarch’s name in such a deceptive way? Is it only due to the understandable wish for adding prestige and intriguing moviegoers in order to increase public interest and resulting sales?
Observers, who are familiar with the political life in the Republic of Macedonia, suspect however some hidden reasons driven by much stronger material and political interests.

Pro-opposition Macedonian media published lists of dozens of companies and properties in the Czech Republic, claimed to be owned or controlled by Sasho Mijalkov – a cousin of the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and key member of his nepotistic governmental clan. Mr. Mijalkov is a graduate of the Prague University and director of the country’s secret services (Administration for Security and Counterintelligence). Macedonian authorities are extremely sensitive towards any release of information regarding this “Czech trace”. For instance, one of the opposition leaders, Mr. Ljube Boškoski, who attempted to unveil these mysterious estates in 2011, has been eavesdropped during the whole electoral campaign which ended with his immediate arrest, accusation, conviction and jailing. Then, under unclear circumstances in the prison, he signed letters of excuse to Mijalkov, Gruevski himself and his mother, whose names have been involved in the scandal. Thus, the case of Ljube Boškoski has been mentioned in the 2012 Human Rights Report of the US Department of State as an example for political imprisonment.

On this background, evil tongues on the Balkans repeatedly blamed the Czech Commissioner Stefan Füle for not applying all stringent EU accession criteria to the Macedonian EU candidacy and for alleged attempts to accept the country through the “back door”.

The above suspects have also been enhanced by the previous involvement of the Czech Barrandov Studios in co-producing of the highly controversial Macedonian film “The Third Half” which embittered the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia.

In conclusion, the unfortunate promotion of the recent Czech production “Cyril and Methodius – The Apostles of the Slavs”, by exploiting misleadingly the Ecumenical Patriarch’s name, demonstrated clearly how circumstances beyond the cinematography and historical truth can spoil a noble initiative. Instead of uniting people and nations to enjoy a piece of art and to celebrate together the two holy brothers and illustrious Patrons of Europe, a counterproductive effect of creating controversies and confrontation might be achieved. It seems that the human nature did not change so much between the 9th and the 21st Centuries.”

Miroslav Rizinski
Civil society activist, political observer and
former political prisoner in the Republic of Macedonia (2007-2011).

I was leaked the Juncker commission

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 03/09/14

I was leaked by a strange individual the draft organigram as of yesterday (2 September) of the Juncker Commission. I take it as a compliment for the strong coverage by EurActiv. See it yourself, and read EurActiv with details tomorrow.
The organigram was leaked by apparently someone external to Juncker’s services, as the person couldn’t provide any explanation whatsoever about the President-elect political thinking. Also, the document is clearly not a final version and subject to change. But it speaks for itself and is full of surprises.

If you find it difficult to read the photo, visit my Twitter account where the portfolio of every commissioner is specified.

Is it a scoop? No, I was leaked, probably not by Juncker himself, who must be furious. But papers circulate and maybe some insiders wanted it that way, to test the water. Read EurActiv.
Here is the list of the Juncker college, according to this draft, which is still subject to change. If you use it for professional reasons, would be nice to attribute the leak to EurActiv:

Luxembourg – Jean-Claude Juncker – President (EPP)

Poland – Elżbieta Bieńkowska – Vice President, Budget & Financial Control (EPP)
Estonia- Andrus Ansip – Vice President, Growth, EMU, European Semester, Social dialog (ALDE)
Latvia – Valdis Dombrovkis – Vice President, Energy Union (EPP)
Slovenia – Alenka Bratušek, Vice President, Digital & Innovation (ALDE)
The Netherlands – Frans Timmermans – Vice President, Better Regulation (S&D)
Italy – Federica Mogherini – Vice President, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (S&D)

Sweden – Cecilia Malmström – Justice and Anti-Fraud (ALDE)
Hungary – Tibor Navracsics – Customs (EPP)
Greece – Dimitris Avramopoulos – Migration, Rights, Home Affairs (EPP)
Croatia – Neven Mimica – Regional Policy (S&D)
Bulgaria – Kristalina Georgieva – Taxation, Fight against Fraud (EPP)
Ireland – Phil Hogan – Agriculture (EPP)
Malta – Carmenu Vela – Fisheries (S&D)
Germany – Günther Oettinger – Trade (EPP)
France – Pierre Moscovici – Competition (S&D)
Finland – Jyrki Katainen – Economic and Monetary Affairs (EPP)
Denmark – Margrethe Vetager – Environment (ALDE)
Portugal – Carlos Moedas – Employment and Social Affairs (EPP)
UK – Jonathan Hill – Energy and Climate Change (ECR)
Spain – Miguel Arias Cañete – Research and Innovation – (EPP)
Czech Republic- Věra Jourová – Transport and Space – (ALDE)
Cyprus – Christos Stylianides – Internet and Culture (EPP)
Romania – Corina Creţu – Humanitarian Aid (S&D)
Belgium – Marianne Thyssen (?) – Skills, Youth and Multilingualism (EPP)
Slovakia – Maroš Šefčovič – Development (S&D)
Austria – Johannes Hahn – Neighbourhood (EPP)
Lithuania – Vytenis Andriukaitis – Health and Food Safety (S&D)

 

* Update, 4 September *

EurActiv’s main story: ‘EXCLUSIVE: The Juncker team revealed

Read the EurActiv article, see the infographic

BREAKING: Poroshenko will participate to EU summit as Ukraine wanted

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 29/08/14

Published at 20.45hrs Brussels time. Diplomatic sources just told me that the services of Council President Herman Van Rompuy just invited by email EU heads of state and government to the EU summit starting at 17.00hrs tomorrow (not 16.00 as previously announced), at which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “will make a communication”.
Obviously, Ukraine has succeeded to have its President participate to the summit, and have a real session on Ukraine.
My information is that Ukraine had made this request, kept on insisting, but for many days had faced a refusal.

Read: Kyiv asks EU summit to discuss Ukraine

Electing Tusk as Council President is a sanction against Russia in itself

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 29/08/14

EU leaders are meeting tomorrow to elect successors to Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton. They are also expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine, where reportedly the Russian army has openly invaded, and decide further sanctions.

The Ukraine situation has strongly boosted the chances of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to succeed to Van Rompuy. Poland has been the most ardent supporter of pro-European Ukraine and his election will certainly deal a blow to Moscow.
As a journalist I have many times witnessed the irony with which Russian officials describe their EU counterparts, namely Van Rompuy and Ashton. I’m sure they would be more respectful of Tusk.
Electing Tusk will also confirm the stature of Poland as a major player in the EU. Poland’s major strength is that the country is strongly pro-European and that its 10 years of EU membership can be described as a success story, illustrating the benefits of EU enlargement and EU reunification.
Poland’s turbulent history has had many low periods, but this time POLSKA is at its peak.

MH17: Why didn’t the EU put its flags at half-mast?

Posted by Georgi Gotev on 25/07/14

Every little act is a symbol that you care. I fail to understand why the EU didn’t put its flags at half- mast following the downing of MH17. Friends from France, Spain, Bulgaria called me and asked: did the Commission put down its flags? It didn’t.

The Malaysian airplane carrying 298 people of which 222 Europeans was shot probably by mistake, but it was a murder. Those are innocent victims of another war on European territory. The Netherlands, a country that lost 193 nationals in the crash, took the lead in the identification of the bodies. Dutch government buildings flew the flag at half-mast on 18 July, the day after the crash. But I don’t think the Dutch felt that the EU was with them on that day. By the way, Downing Street has put the Union Jack down, as 10 UK citizens perished in the crash.
Many European citizens felt as bereaved as the Dutch. But the EU institutions left them down.
P.S. This is the answer I got: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/pla…

Reuniting Europe rss

Georgi Gotev is senior editor of EurActiv more.



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