Europe/Americas update: September 20 2018

Best wishes to any readers who are observing Ashura.



The Ukrainian parliament voted on Thursday to send constitutional amendments to the country’s constitutional court that, if passed, would open the door for Ukraine to join NATO and the European Union. In a speech to parliament, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the Ukrainian military can be ready to join NATO as early as 2020. Needless to say it’s likely Russia will want to weigh in on this issue in some fashion.


As the dust settles from Sweden’s parliamentary election earlier this month, it seems one of three things is going to happen: either the country’s center-left and center-right blocs form a grand coalition, something that’s never happened in Swedish history; the center-right bloc negotiates for support with the proto-fascist Sweden Democrats party, something the bloc’s leaders had vowed not to do; or there will be a new election, which probably won’t be any more decisive than the last one. Sounds like a real fun few months are in store.


Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell says that when he visited the US in June, Donald Trump used his very good brain to suggest a solution to Europe’s migrant situation:

Donald Trump suggested the Spanish government tackled the Mediterranean migration crisis by emulating one of his most famous policies and building a wall across the Sahara desert, the country’s foreign minister has revealed.

According to Josep Borrell, the US president brushed off the scepticism of Spanish diplomats – who pointed out that the Sahara stretched for 3,000 miles – saying: “The Sahara border can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.”

Trump wooed voters in the 2016 election with his promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” across the US/Mexico border, which is roughly 2,000 miles long.

A similar plan in the Sahara, however, would be complicated by the fact that Spain holds only two small enclaves in north Africa – Ceuta and Melilla – and such a wall would have to be built on foreign territory.

Simply astounding.


There’s no polite way to put this, but European Council President Donald Tusk and French President Eris Emmanuel Macron appear to have thoroughly embarrassed the shit out of Theresa May at Thursday’s European Union leaders’ summit in Salzburg. May arrived at the conference prepared to ask the EU to be reasonable in the home stretch of the Brexit negotiations and was hoping the leaders would give her a litany of positive comments about her own Brexit program, the so-called “Chequers” plan, that she could take back to London and use to bash skeptics within her Conservative Party.

So, about that. Macron got things started by calling Brexit supporters in the UK “liars,” which prompted Brexiteers in London to tell him to fuck off. Then he and Tusk heavily bashed the Chequers plan, both for its inadequate non-solution to the Northern Ireland border issue and its insistence that the EU make a special exception for Britain in allowing it to remain in the single market for goods while withdrawing from the rest of the EU:

Tusk also offered a withering assessment of the economic proposals in the Chequers plan, under which the UK would have a common rulebook with the EU for goods, and benefit from frictionless trade and an independent commercial policy through a bespoke customs arrangement.

“It must be clear that there are some issues where we are not ready to compromise and first of all this is our fundamental freedoms and single market and this is why we remain sceptical and critical when it comes to this part of the Chequers proposals,” he said.

Macron dismissed May’s suggestion that Chequers was the only solution other than a no-deal scenario.

He said of the white paper: “It was a good and brave step by the prime minister. But we all agreed on this today, the proposals in their current state are not acceptable, especially on the economic side of it. The Chequers plan cannot be take it or leave it,” he said.

May tried vainly to brush off this criticism, classifying it as a negotiating tactic and saying that the ball was in Brussels’ court now as far as finding the “political will” to make a Brexit deal. She still, apparently, doesn’t get that the EU doesn’t need to make a deal here. Sure, a no-deal Brexit will be inconvenient for the EU, but it will be a near-disaster for the UK. In fact it’s in the EU’s interest to may the UK pay through the nose here as a message to the next member state that decides to jump ship.

May keeps insisting that the EU meet her in the middle, only there’s no reason the EU needs to do that. This entire negotiating process has been May staking out a red line, gradually realizing that the EU won’t come to her or even meet her halfway, and then moving her red line and having to come to the same realization again, over and over and over. She’s still doing it, and the EU is still not budging, though mercifully we won’t have to watch them do this ridiculous dance for very much longer.



New polling shows far right candidate and dictatorship enthusiast Jair Bolsonaro extending his lead in the first round of Brazil’s presidential election next month. He sits at 28 percent, up two points in the same poll from last week. Second place now belongs to Fernando Haddad at 16 percent, though he’s within the margin of error with third place Ciro Gomes, at 13 percent. The poll finds that Gomes would defeat Bolsonaro in a runoff while Bolsonaro and Haddad are tied.


Thousands of people protested in Guatemala City and elsewhere around the country on Thursday to demand that President Jimmy Morales not close down the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Morales announced last month that he’s not renewing CICIG’s mandate beyond next September, mostly because the commission has started investigating him and his pals, and he’s blocked the return of the commission’s head, Iván Velásquez, from entering the country. The United Nations has refused Morales’s request that Velásquez be replaced, but may compromise by appointing a deputy for Velásquez who will be stationed in Guatemala while Velásquez works elsewhere.

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