In a blog posted on September 16th, admeuro writes about potential implications of the Scotland’s independence on the future of the United Kingdom. By writing this blog, I wanted to join admeuro in covering referendum in Scotland by writing about potential implications of Scotland’s independence on the EU.
The first question that arises with Scotland’s potential secession is whether Scotland automatically maintains its membership in the EU (as claimed by one of the leaders of campaign that is in favor of Scottish independence, Alex Salmond) or whether it would have to go through the same process of negotiations that all other countries go through.
The outgoing president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said in February of this year that it would be “difficult, if not impossible for Scotland to join the EU,” since that would require the approval of not only the UK, but also Spain, Italy, Belgium, and other member states, which fear that this event would encourage separatist movements in their respective states. Salmond, however, described Barroso’s claim as “absurd”, explaining that it would be inconceivable that the EU would not accept a country whose citizens are already citizens of the EU, whose laws are already aligned with the European standards, and with such rich deposits of oil.
Ever since, Barroso has been silent on the EU stance regarding Scotland’s EU membership in the case of independence and in all recent statements he has only been repeating that the EU will respect the democratic procedure regardless of the outcome. He has also been saying that “it is for the Scottish people and for the British citizens to decide on the future of Scotland.”
Regardless of the EU’s stance on the issue of Scotland’s independence, this would definitely be a new challenge for the EU, and a very unwelcome one, keeping in mind the current crisis in Ukraine and the ongoing European economic crisis. Extensive European regulation, after all, simply did not foresee a possibility of secession in one of its member states.
Even though the EU stance might be uncertain on this issue, member states that face significant separatist tendencies themselves will definitely be a firm barrier for Scotland’s accelerated membership process. For example, the Spanish Minister for European Affairs has recently stated that Scotland’s membership procedure “will have more ifs than Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem.”
The second question that arises with Scotland’s potential secession is weather the EU will be able to defend its long-lasting promise that joining the EU means definitive stabilization of an acceding country in terms of its borders. For example, with countries that had some difficulties in their history on this issue such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, and more recently Slovenia and Croatia, it was always emphasized that joining the EU meant that the possibility of disintegration and separatism was greatly reduced.
Nevertheless, if the EU accepts Scotland, does it mean that it opens up a Pandora’s Box of future separatism? What about the candidate countries? Will it leave them with doubt and uncertainty that even after joining the EU, there remains a possibility for eventual separation of the country into two or more countries?
The answers to these questions will probably be clearer in the very near future.
For the entire interview with the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in February 2014, look here:
With Scotland’s independence referendum only days away, commentators in Edinburgh, London, and around the world are contemplating what a post-independence United Kingdom would look like. The topics of their speculation range from currency, defense spending, and North Sea oil revenues to the role of the monarchy and the national anthem. Among these, one question has proved itself significantly difficult to answer – what would happen to Britain’s iconic Union Jack?
The red, white, and blue standard had its beginning in 1606, when James VI of Scotland ascended to the throne of England, and the two countries were joined in a personal union. This early prototype, known as the flag of Great Britain, was a fusion of the white and red cross of Saint George (representing England) with the blue and white saltire of St. Andrew (representing Scotland). The current version of the Union Jack was adopted in 1801 after the unification of England, Scotland, and Ireland into a new political entity – the United Kingdom. This version incorporated the white and red saltire of St. Patrick to represent Ireland.
Would a “yes” vote for independence mean the death of the Union Jack? Like many questions surrounding the Scottish referendum, the answer isn’t easy to come by.
Many claim that because the Scots would be politically separating from the UK, continued use of the Union Jack would be inappropriate. Several designs for a new flag of the United Kingdom have been proposed – many of them include elements to signify Wales, which has no representation on the current flag. Others argue that because the Queen will, in all likelihood, remain the head of state in Scotland, there is no reason to change the flag – it will simply represent the personal union under the Crown – as it did in the days of King James.
One final problem remains – what of the numerous countries, territories, provinces, and cities which incorporate the Union Jack in their own flags? Will they have to also be changed?
With each question growing more complicated than the last, it might be sensible to wait for every vote to be counted before jumping to conclusions. But with the fate of one of the world’s most recognizable flags hanging in the balance, the speculation will certainly continue.
After several months of tensions, media spins, and complicated negotiations with the EU member states, the newly appointed president of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Juncker, presented a list of new EU commissioners who will take office on November 1, 2014. Juncker’s choice of commissioners, as well as the proposed changes in the EC structure, suggest that Juncker intends to lead the EC much differently from his predecessor Jose Manuel Barroso.
One of the proposed changes in the EC structure is that the First Vice-President of the EC will have an expanded set of competencies. In the new EC, the First Vice-President will have the power of supervising the Commissioners whose portfolios are intertwined. The first Vice-President will be able to supervise the legal proposals of these Commissioners with a veto right over any proposal. Juncker chose the Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans, for this position. According to Juncker, “the First Vice-President will practically have the same competencies as I and he will be my right hand.”
Besides Timmermans, six other Vice- Presidents are:
Federica Mogherini, Italy – European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Commission’s Vice-President
Kristalina Georgieva, Bulgaria – Commission’s Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources
Alenka Bratušek, Slovenia – Commission’s Vice-President for Energy Union
Jyrki Katalnen, Finland – Commission’s Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness
Valdis Dombrovskis, Latvia – Commission’s Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue
Andrus Ansip, Estonia – Commission’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market
All seven Vice-Presidents will share competencies with the EC President in terms of having the power to reject any legislation that comes from other commissioners. As an example, Valdis Dombrovskis, who is in charge of the Euro and Social Dialogue, will work closely with both French Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, in charge of Economic and Financial Affairs, and Belgian Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, in charge of Social Affairs. These two Commissioners would report to Vice-President Dombrovskis before an item is put on the agenda of the Commission’s weekly College meeting. As Juncker explained, Vice-Presidents will act as “filters.”
According to the EC statement, “Vice-Presidents will lead project teams, steering and coordinating the work of a number of Commissioners. This will ensure a dynamic interaction of all Members of the College, breaking down silos and moving away from static structures.”
The representatives of France, Britain, and Germany, have become commissioners in charge of major economic departments. As previously mentioned, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici will be Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs. Britain’s Jonathan Hill will lead the department in charge of financial services, and German Guenther Oettinger will no longer lead the department of energy, but will be responsible for the digital economy. The department that takes care of the Energy Community has been entrusted to former Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek, while Austria’s Johannes Hahn became a commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
The entire structure of the new EC can be found at this link:
Proposed EC candidates have yet to hear the vote of the European Parliament (EP) and some candidates might have difficulty in securing a majority in the EP. In addition, Juncker’s flexible structure of the EC could also be a source of conflict and tension within the EU member states, since many departments, especially economic ones, are quite intertwined. Competencies in the field of economics, Juncker divided between eleven candidates who represent different perspectives and interests about the development of the European economy. Nevertheless, Juncker has so far been very successful in reaching a compromise between the “socialist” Paris, the “Euro-sceptic” London, and the “sparing” Berlin in a way that every side received an important influence on the development of the EU economy. After all, how Juncker’s project will work in practice, only time will tell.
The entire EC statement regarding the new structure of the EC can be found here:
The new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented the names of the 27 people he wants to work
In a bold move that is being hailed as courageous by NATO and the U.S. and decried as betrayal by Russia, French President Francois Hollande suspended the delivery of one of the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers it promised to Russia last week. The suspension is a direct result of a fruitful NATO summit in Wales that took place last week and comes at a time when the EU is leveling sanctions against Russia. NATO countries agreed to several key resolutions regarding Russian activities in Ukraine, including creating a Rapid Response Force in eastern Europe and the Baltics, increased interoperability between allies, and an uptick in defense spending to meet the 2% of GDP requirement.
The suspension of the sale does come at a cost. The defense contract with Russia carries of price tag of 1.2 billion euro (1.6 billion dollars) to deliver the two state-of-the-art warships, something the stagnant French economy desperately needs. The deal predates the Russian “incursion” by three years. The 2011 deal was signed by the Russian Defense Ministry, with the state-owned French defense contractor DCNS and the shipbuilder STX France taking care of the actual construction. The first of the ships was scheduled for delivery in November, according to a Palace Elysees spokesman.
Nevertheless, the West can now breathe a sigh of relief. With access to these two new ships, the Russian Navy would possess enhanced first-strike capabilities. Though it is not confirmed, the Russian Navy would likely have deployed the ships to the Black Sea, specifically to their new illegally acquired port in Sevastopol or Yalta in Crimea, threatening Ukrainian coastal towns with helicopter air support. In addition, the NATO allies of Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania would see similar uneasiness.
France does not have to be a loser here. Hollande has the option to back out of the deal completely. The French could certainly find any number of buyers for the helicopter assault ships. India has expressed interest. The United States, with its vast amount of funding allocated towards defense, could surely afford to purchase the ships. In any case, France’s decision to suspend the sale was made in the best interest of French, Ukrainian, and European national security.
Norway’s oil and gas reserves have helped put the country at the top of global rankings for wealth and wellbeing for several years now. Unlike most other countries rich in oil supplies, Norway has taken caution not to squander its resources by being parsimonious in its spending and investing its oil and gas money in a sovereign wealth fund. This has helped put Norway on a very sturdy economic footing, the preservation of which has been made possible by Norwegians’ work ethic and trust in their national government and fellow citizens. The high level of trust in Norwegian society—made more problematic by issues of discrimination and racism directed at many of the country’s immigrants, but nevertheless impressive when compared with rampant distrust in other advanced economies—has made Norway a nation in which income disparities are purposely kept low and many citizens are able to comfortably afford vacation homes and $10 cappuccinos.
The wealth and happiness that has come with responsible spending does seem, however, to have a downside. Oslo, Norway’s largest city and Europe’s fastest-growing capital, is undergoing rapid demographic growth and drastic redevelopment. The capital’s skyline continues to expand upwards with skyscrapers and contemporary glass high-rise apartments, and these changes in the townscape have spurred an identity crisis among some Norwegians, as well as apprehensions about growing wealth gaps and problems of assimilation. As regards the first of these trepidations, BBC reports that a number of Norwegians are beginning to worry that all the progress and modernization that their society has been undergoing have led to a diminishing sense of ‘traditional’ Norwegian identity. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, Norway’s identity seems to be becoming more and more disassociated from its Viking origins and its idealization of nature—and proud Norwegians wish they could turn back the clock. In addition, those opposed to Oslo’s redevelopment are concerned that the new constructions are not designed for the average inhabitant and that they will just serve to increase wealth gaps and to push Oslo’s large immigrant population even further to the sidelines. This last concern is for some particularly distressing, as it could further impede immigrant assimilation and lead to race riots of the like of those of Paris and Stockholm. Time (and Norwegians’ developing reactions) will tell whether Norway’s economic progress will continue to increase Norwegians’ trust and communal cohesion, or whether it will serve to further aggravate the existing fault lines in Norwegian society.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama pledged American support to the Baltics in comments he made in a joint press conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. This show of solidarity came in the face of increasing pressure on Russia to end its support of pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, and days before a NATO conference in Wales.
President Obama pledged further US air power in the region and voiced strong support for Estonia – a country with a considerable Russian-speaking population. Many Eastern European nations have grown concerned in recent months as Russia’s military aid to Ukrainian separatists has grown into what some have called a full-scale invasion by Russia. This increase in US support, as well as a newly-proposed NATO rapid response force are all designed to show NATO strength in the face of this Russian aggression.
Obama stopped well short of calling this a new Cold War era, as some have suggested. But he did assert a forceful defense of the sovereignty of the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In one of his most well-received comments the President declared, “You’ve lost your independence once. With NATO, you will never lose it again.”
Estonian reaction to the President’s visit was wildly positive, with some instant polls showing as high as 90% approval of his comments.
In choosing Estonia for this visit, the administration is holding the country up as an example. Estonia and the United States are two of only four NATO members which spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense – a pledge made by all NATO members.
The two presidents’ full comments can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/03/remarks-president-obama-and-president-ilves-estonia-joint-press-confer-0