Credit: Guardian graphics
sexta-feira, 28 de fevereiro de 2014
Russian 'invasion' of Crimea fuels fear of Ukraine conflict
White House issues warning to Kremlin, as Ukrainian official claims 2,000 Russian troops have arrived in peninsula
Shaun Walker in Kiev, Harriet Salem in Sevastopol and Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian, Saturday 1 March 2014 / http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/28/russia-crimea-white-house
Russia and the west are on a collision course over Crimea after Moscow was accused of orchestrating a "military invasion and occupation" of the peninsula, as groups of apparently pro-Russian armed men seized control of two airports. Russian troop movements were reported across the territory.
One Ukrainian official claimed late on Friday that 2,000 Russian troops had arrived in Crimea during the course of the day, in 13 Russian aircraft.
Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, addressed the nation and accused Russia of carrying out a similar strategy to 2008, when it in effect annexed two Georgian territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. "They are trying to provoke a military conflict and are creating a scenario identical to the Abkhaz one, when having provoked a conflict, they annexed territory," he said.
Turchynov, installed following the removal of the pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych over the weekend, appealed to Vladimir Putin to halt the incursion: "I am personally addressing President Putin to stop the provocation and call back the military from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and work exclusively within the framework of the signed agreements," he said.
On Friday evening the main Crimean air hub at Simferopol was still guarded by unidentified, uniformed men. Later it was announced that the airport had been closed and incoming flights diverted. There were similar scenes at Sevastopol airport. On Thursday pro-Russian gunmen seized the Crimean parliament in Simferopol.
"I see what has happened as a military invasion and occupation in violation of all international treaties and norms," said the new Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov earlier in the day. "This is a direct provocation aimed at armed bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state."
Late on Friday Ukraine's defence ministry put out a statement saying it had information that unknown "radical forces" were planning to try to disarm its military units in Crimea early Saturday morning and warned against such action.
The White House said any Russian military intervention in Ukraine would be a "grave mistake", while the UN security council took up the issue at a session on Friday evening. A senior administration official said the US is considering pulling out of the G8 summit in Russia.
A US boycott of the June meeting would be a major blow to Putin, particularly if backed by European G8 members – the UK, Italy, Germany and France.
"We are consulting with European partners and considering options," the senior administration official told the Guardian. "It is hard to see how we and other European leaders would attend the G8 in Sochi if Russia is intervening in Ukraine."
The sudden escalation of the crisis amounts to the most dangerous standoff in the former Soviet Union since the Russia-Georgia war six years ago.
As alarm grew during the day, Russia dismissed efforts by the new Ukrainian leadership to discuss the future of Crimea, a territory the size of Belgium which, despite a large Russian majority, has been part of Ukraine since independence two decades ago. Since 1991, Russia has maintained its own fleet at Sevastopol, a force that dwarfs Ukraine's own units in Crimea. The Russian foreign ministry said troop movements were "required to protect deployment places of the Black Sea fleet in Ukraine" and said the manoeuvres were fully in line with bilateral accords.
There was still uncertainty as to the precise identity of the gunmen holding the parliament and the airports. They claimed to be part of an informal self-defence group that has sprung up in response to the revolution in Kiev. But experts said they were hardly an impromptu militia.
"This is not a ragtag force," said Brigadier Ben Barry, a specialist on land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. "When you see a new militia, they will have a jumble-sale look. This lot are uniformly dressed and equipped and seem competent and efficient."
Michael McFaul, until last week the US ambassador to Russia, wrote on Twitter: "If gunmen in Crimea are not acting on Kremlin's behalf, it would calming for Russian government to say so. Silence fuels uncertainty, instability."
Ukraine's national telephone operator said it had lost landline contact with Crimea.
The crisis was sparked by the bloody uprising in Kiev against the pro-Russian leadership that culminated in Yanukovych's flight last weekend. On Friday he resurfaced in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, denouncing the "bandit coup" in Kiev, and reiterating that he remained the legitimate president of Ukraine. In a floundering performance full of slip-ups and confused answers, Yanukovych called on Russia to act decisively, saying he was "surprised" by Putin's restraint.
He also said military action was unacceptable and the territorial integrity of Ukraine should not be violated. Yanukovych, who said he would not return to Ukraine until it was safe to do so, said presidential elections scheduled for 25 May were illegitimate.
There was an intense bout of international diplomacy over the increased tension, with David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel speaking with Russian president Vladimir Putin. London said Putin and Cameron agreed to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity, while a Kremlin readout of the call merely said the leaders had agreed "there should be no further escalation of violence". The foreign secretary William Hague said he would be travelling to Kiev to meet the country's new leaders.
Political leaders moved fast in Moscow with the parliament rapidlyintroducing a law that would make it easier for new territories to be added to Russia's existing borders, a move that seemed directly linked to events in Crimea. The bill would allow for regions to join Russia by referendum if its host country does not have a "legitimate government". MP Elena Mizulina said: "If as the result of a referendum, Crimea appeals to Russia with a desire to join us, we should have the legal mechanisms to answer."
Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky flew to Crimea and addressed cheering crowds in Sevastopol, promising them financial and psychological support against the new government in Kiev.
Another law under discussion would ease the requirements for Russian-speaking Ukrainians to receive Russian citizenship, and late on Friday, the Russian foreign ministry said it had ordered its consulate in Simferopol to begin "urgently" issuing passports to members of the Berkut riot police. The toughest regiments of police in Ukraine, Berkut regiments were used by Yanukovych against peaceful protesters. In the western city of Lviv, Berkut officers got down on their knees and begged forgiveness for the actions of their colleagues, but in Crimea, the returning troops have been greeted as heroes.
In Kiev, a new cabinet was voted in by the parliament on Thursday and needs to get to work to ease the appalling state of the economy, with Ukraine's currency weakening and the country facing a serious risk of default. The new government has been recognised as legitimate by most regions of Ukraine outside Crimea, but still has work to do to integrate law-enforcement bodies and restart the functioning of the state.
Ukraine's armed forces are dwarfed by Russia's – but would be no pushover if the Kremlin did decide to go for broke. "It is a nightmare for everyone," said Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military expert. "The entry of Russian troops would be a deep humiliation for Ukraine … It would be a second Chechnya."
What Is Russia’s Aim in Ukraine? With Military Moves Seen in Ukraine, Obama Warns Russia /The New York Times.
Striped areas indicate
provinces with significant
The Opinion Pages|EDITORIAL/ The New York Times
What Is Russia’s Aim in Ukraine?
By THE EDITORIAL BOARDFEB. 28, 2014 / http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/01/opinion/what-is-russias-aim-in-ukraine.html?action=click&contentCollection=Europe&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article
President Vladimir Putin of Russia played the genial host at the Olympic Games in Sochi, but his dangerous approach to geopolitics could be his true legacy.
On Friday, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, said that Russian troops had taken control of two airports in Crimea and that the Russian Navy was blocking the Ukrainian Coast Guard.
Moscow denied that it had sent troops in. But the fact is, Russia was outrageously provocative when it put 150,000 troops on high alert on Wednesday for war games near Ukraine’s border and then on Friday, allowed the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, to give a news conference when he showed up in the Russian city Rostov-on-Don.
The situation has now gone from chaos to the verge of military confrontation. The pro-Russia region of Crimea is seething, and the new central government that took over in Kiev after Mr. Yanukovych fled is barely functioning.
Armed men patrolled the street outside Simferopol’s airport in the Crimea region of Ukraine on Friday.With Military Moves Seen in Ukraine, Obama Warns RussiaFEB. 28, 2014
President Obama, speaking at the White House, was right to warn Russia against any military move and to indicate that the United States would join the world in condemning a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. He also said that “there will be costs” for any intervention in Ukraine, though it was not clear what, if realistically anything, that might involve.
Mr. Obama spoke after armed men of uncertain allegiance took up positions at two airports in Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea. Their military uniforms bore no insignia, and it was not obvious who they were or who was commanding them.
There were no immediate signs of confrontations or panic, but The Times reported that armored personnel carriers with Russian markings appeared on roads outside Simferopol, sometimes alone but at other times in long columns of military vehicles. It was unclear whether the movement was a Russian push to occupy the city, a show of strength or simply a routine rotation of Russian military equipment.
Russia has many military facilities in Crimea, where its Black Sea fleet is based, and the area has stronger historical ties to Russia than to Ukraine’s central government in Kiev. While promising to defend the interests of Russian citizens in Ukraine, Moscow has said it will not intervene by force.
But whether Mr. Putin will abide by that promise is unclear. In 2008, he sent Russian forces into neighboring Georgia, ostensibly to protect the secessionist Georgian enclave of South Ossetia; the real goal was to weaken the pro-Western government in Tbilisi.
Russia and the West both have legitimate interests in Ukraine and its future. Fomenting more tension in a country that is already in upheaval is not in anyone’s interests. Nor is encouraging a permanent break between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine.
Russia and the West need to work together to help stabilize the country politically and develop an economic and trade package that will begin to resolve the economic crisis.
Mr. Putin’s dangerous tactics are sure to backfire and do more to alienate Ukrainians than to encourage them to accept any Russian role in their nation’s future.
With Military Moves Seen in Ukraine, Obama Warns Russia
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and ANDREW HIGGINSFEB. 28, 2014 / http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/01/world/europe/ukraine.html?hp&_r=0
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s fragile new government accused Russia of trying to provoke a military conflict on Friday by invading the Crimea region, while in Washington President Obama issued a stern warning to the Kremlin about respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, apparently in an effort to preclude a full-scale military escalation.
American officials did not directly confirm a series of public statements by senior officials in the new Ukrainian government, including its acting president, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, that Russian troops were being deployed to Crimea, where Russia has a major naval base, in violation of the two countries’ agreements there.
Mr. Obama, however, cited “reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine,” and he said, “Any violation of Ukrainian sovereignty would be deeply destabilizing.”
“There will be costs,” Mr. Obama said in a hastily arranged statement from the White House.
He said that Russian forces had captured the regional Parliament, as well as the headquarters of the regional government, and that they had sought to seize other targets, including vital communications hubs, and to block unspecified Ukrainian military assets.
United States officials said they believed that the unusual helicopter movements over Crimea were evidence that a military intervention was underway, but cautioned that they did not know the scale of the operation or the Russians’ motives.
Russia on Friday denied that it had or would encroach on Ukrainian territory, and claimed that any troop movements were in line with arrangements that allow it to station soldiers in the area.
Still, developments in Ukraine sent Ukraine’s interim government, appointed just the day before, deep into crisis mode as it confronted the prospect of an armed effort to split off Crimea, an autonomous region with close historic ties to Russia, from the Ukrainian mainland.
Analysts said the increase in the Russian presence in the area had parallels to steps Russia took before beginning a war with Georgia in 2008 over the largely ethnic Russian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but there was little to indicate whether President Vladimir V. Putin intended to escalate the challenge to Ukraine beyond the so-far nonviolent provocation of the mostly pro-Russian population in the region.
Mr. Turchynov, the acting president, also made comparisons to Georgia.
“They are provoking us into military conflict,” Mr. Turchynov said. “They began annexation of territory.”
In his address, Mr. Turchynov added, “I personally appeal to President Putin, demanding that he immediately stop the provocation and withdraw troops.”
The crisis in Crimea, along the Black Sea, is the latest development in a series of rapidly unfurling events that began after scores of people were killed in Kiev last week in a severe escalation of civic unrest that had been underway since late November.
Protests started after Russia pressured Viktor F. Yanukovych, then the president, to back away from sweeping political and free-trade agreements with the European Union that he had long promised to sign, setting off an East-West confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War.
After the recent killings, Mr. Yanukovych reached a tentative truce with opposition leaders in talks brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland, but within 24 hours he fled the capital, and an overwhelming majority of lawmakers voted to strip him of power, saying he had abandoned his position.
On Friday, a week later, Mr. Yanukovych resurfaced for a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, in which he said he was still the legitimate president and urged Russia not to intervene militarily in Crimea.
Mr. Obama’s warning suggested a deepening uncertainty among American officials about Mr. Putin’s intentions in the region despite a series of high-level contacts in recent days, including a telephone call between the two presidents one week ago. Mr. Yanukovych was an ally of Russia, and his toppling has left the Kremlin grappling for a response.
Washington has struggled to make sense of the events in Crimea. While American officials said that intelligence indicated that a Russian operation was underway, Mr. Obama stopped short of calling it an invasion. Part of the confusion, one official said, was that Russia routinely moves troops between military bases in Crimea.
Another American official said that intelligence reports from the region are “all over the place,” but that the administration believed that Russia had moved some of its forces into Ukraine, while some of the movement, officials said, seemed to be an increase in protective measures around Russian military installations.
Though he threatened an unspecified “cost” to Russia, Mr. Obama appeared to have limited options to respond to an intervention. Officials said he could cancel his participation in a Group of 8 meeting in Sochi, Russia, in June. The administration could also shut down talks on a potential trade agreement. Russia sent a delegation to Washington this week to explore closer trade and commercial ties.
Advice to Putin: Arrest Yanukovich, find the billions that he stole from the Ukrainian people and give it back to them. A Russian Robin Hood...
Jack Belicic 14 minutes ago
Goodbye Crimea; our ineffectual State Dept. and the more ineffectual EU can prepare their "condemnations". let us also await the theatrics...
Michael Simmons 15 minutes ago
Obama said "the United States would stand with the world to condemn a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty."What about the sovereignty of...
Crimea, a multi-ethnic region that was granted a large degree of autonomy in 1992 after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union, has long been a source of tension with Russia and is the headquarters of some of Russia’s most important military installations, including the headquarters of its Black Sea naval fleet.
As the international community reacted with consternation to the developments in Crimea, the Kremlin, as enigmatic as ever, remained largely silent.
Russian state television reported that Russian troops at arrived to secure the airport at Belbek, which is close to the Russian navy headquarters, but Russian officials did not confirm that information. The identity of gunmen who appeared at the Simferopol airport and at roadblocks on major roadways also remained unclear.
In a statement, Russia’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged that the movement of armored vehicles from the base in Sevastapol had occurred “to ensure the security” of Russian forces, but added that the maneuvers were “fully in accordance” with the conditions of its lease, which was extended until 2042 as part of a deal in which Ukraine received discounts on Russian natural gas.
While the movement of Russian military vehicles, equipment and personnel is common in the Crimea, Friday’s activity was extremely unusual, local residents said. It involved a number of strange components, including the deployment of heavily armed soldiers, wearing uniforms with no identifying marks, at the region’s two main airports.
Before dawn, at Simferopol’s international airport, the soldiers initially posted themselves outside an administrative building, and through much of the day they did not interfere with departing or arriving flights.
By evening, however, the usual flight in from Kiev was canceled, and it was unclear whether any flights would go through Crimean airspace over the weekend. Similarly mysterious gunmen also appeared at a second airport, which is used for civil and military flights.
Journalists spotted a convoy of nine Russian armored personnel carriers on a road between the port city of Sevastopol, Russia’s main naval base, and Simferopol, the Crimean capital, a city of about 250,000. There were also unconfirmed reports that several planes carrying thousands of Russian soldiers had arrived in the Crimea on Friday night.
Even more unusual, a Ukrainian telecommunications company, Ukrtelecom, said “unknown people” had seized control of several communications hubs disrupting telephone and Internet service between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine. In a statement, the company pleaded with law enforcement agencies to take control of the situation.
While Western governments initially seemed hesitant to draw conclusions, officials in the new provisional government in Kiev said early Friday morning that they suspected Russian interference.
Mr. Turchynov, who is speaker of Parliament, immediately convened a meeting of the newly-formed National Security and Defense Council to discuss the events in the south.
David M. Herszenhorn reported from Kiev, Mark Landler from Washington, and Alison Smale from Simferopol, Ukraine. Reporting was contributed by Patrick Reevell from Simferopol, Oksana Lyachnyska from Kiev, and Michael D. Shear, Michael R. Gordon, Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.
Parlamento aprova recomendação "mínima" para grupo de trabalho sobre acordo ortográfico
MARIA LOPES 28/02/2014 – PÚBLICO
Proposta final de Ribeiro e Castro, Michael Seufert e Mota Amaral foi bastante amputada em relação à inicial para poder contar com o apoio do PSD.
O Parlamento aprovou esta sexta-feira a recomendação ao Governo para que crie um grupo de trabalho no âmbito da Presidência do Conselho de Ministros para fazer o acompanhamento do acordo ortográfico. O texto foi proposto pelos deputados centristas José Ribeiro e Castro e Michael Seufert e pelo social-democrata João Mota Amaral.
A bancada do CDS-PP votou dividida: dos 24 deputados, sete votaram a favor da recomendação, ao lado do PSD e dos Verdes. Os restantes 14 deputados votaram contra, acompanhando o PS e o Bloco. O PCP absteve-se. Com Ribeiro e Castro e Michael Seufert votaram os centristas Teresa Caeiro, Teresa Anjinho, José Lino Ramos, Inês Teotónio Pereira e Rui Barreto.
O diploma chegou à votação final bastante amputado em relação ao seu figurino inicial – o que motivou críticas do PS e do Bloco sobre o sentido e eficácia da iniciativa. Primeiro, na quinta-feira à noite, tinham caído os dois parágrafos que previam a possibilidade deste grupo de trabalho poder vir a propor a revogação, suspensão ou revisão da aplicação do acordo ortográfico. Fora esta a condição para o PSD deixar passar a proposta.
Já esta sexta-feira de manhã, o texto sofreu mais cortes: caíram os considerandos, o prazo de funcionamento do grupo de trabalho – que obrigava a que tivesse mesmo que apresentar conclusões – e até a denominação do projecto de resolução foi mudado. Em vez da inicial “reavaliação da aplicação” do acordo ortográfico, o título diz agora apenas “acompanhamento da aplicação”.
José Ribeiro e Castro defendeu que a aplicação do acordo tem estado envolto em “problemas políticos de efectivação” e “problemas técnicos” que é preciso ultrapassar. Citou Adriano Moreira para dizer que “a língua portuguesa não é nossa, mas também é nossa”, pelo que é preciso “ter plasticidade e inteligência no equilíbrio entre os elementos normativos e o trabalho de linguistas” e de todos os especialistas e utilizadores da língua, como docentes ou escritores.
Apesar de ter havido um grupo de trabalho sobre o assunto, que funcionou na Assembleia da República em 2013, o deputado centrista diz não ter tirado as conclusões que outros tiram e que é “precipitado” defender simplesmente a saída de Portugal do acordo ortográfico. Mas considera fundamental ultrapassar os problemas para aumentar a adesão de todos ao acordo.
Apoio modesto do PSD
A social-democrata Rosa Arezes veio dar um apoio moderado aos três deputados. Avisou que o partido está “empenhado para que a aplicação do acordo possa prosseguir com naturalidade”, recordou que se está já numa fase de transição com a utilização corrente do novo acordo em quase todos os organismos públicos “sem sobressaltos”. Mas admitiu a “necessidade de limar algumas arestas e a importância de proceder a melhoramentos”.
Na declaração de voto que no final da votação anunciou - como o fizeram também as bancadas do PSD e a do CDS-PP e outros parlamentares em nome individual -, o deputado do PSD José Mendes Bota considerou que a solução que o seu partido admitiu deixar passar é "o mínimo dos mínimos dos mínimos, fraca, não vinculativa e que nada fará para inverter o rumo traçado por este estranho consenso político rendido às conveniências económicas, diplomáticas e operacionais".
O centrista Telmo Correia veio justificar a oposição da bancada a esta proposta de dois dos seus deputados com o argumento da “noção de responsabilidade”, tendo em conta o “percurso que já foi feito” e o “esforço de entidades, editores, escolas” no processo de implementação do acordo nos últimos anos.
O deputado citou Fernando Pessoa que disse que “a minha pátria é a língua portuguesa”, mas fazendo questão de acrescentar que o poeta falou na “língua e não na ortografia”. Em resposta a Ribeiro e Castro, Telmo Correia também citou Adriano Moreira para salientar que se a “língua portuguesa é um instrumento da nossa soberania, Portugal e a soberania não são donos da língua. Apenas a partilham com outros Estados de língua oficial portuguesa”. Sobre as “dificuldades” levantadas pelo Brasil, que tem adiado a entrada em vigor efectiva dos termos do acordo, Telmo Correia respondeu com uma pergunta: “Se nós temos receio sobre as dúvidas ou dificuldades que o Brasil levanta, porque levantamos também? O interesse de Portugal é liderar o acordo ortográfico. E por isso eu votarei contra.”
Crítico da proposta encabeçada por Ribeiro e Castro, o socialista Carlos Enes veio defender o Brasil e os restantes países que ainda não aplicam o acordo dizendo que o estão a fazer “ao seu ritmo”. Considerou que a perspectiva deve ser a de “caminhar com segurança, limar arestas, obter mais consensos”. Realçando que o corpo do acordo “não é uma Bíblia sagrada”, defendeu que uma eventual revisão do mesmo deve ser feita a longo prazo, e que o vocabulário ortográfico comum – a ser usado por todos os países – “está em fase de ultimação para ser conhecido ainda este ano”. “Compete ao Governo providenciar que tal aconteça”, rematou, empurrando a questão para o Executivo.
Projectos do PCP e Bloco chumbados
O PCP foi bem mais longe que a proposta dos três deputados da direita e apresentou um projecto de resolução que previa a criação de um Instituto para a Língua Portuguesa e a possibilidade de Portugal se desvincular do acordo se, até final de 2016, não houver um vocabulário comum e um acordo comummente aceite. Foi chumbado com os votos contra do PSD, PS e CDS-PP; o Bloco absteve-se.
O deputado comunista Miguel Tiago recordou que o PCP foi o único partido que não votou o segundo protocolo modificativo ao acordo e que implicava a entrada em vigor da actual versão. Na altura, o partido “suscitou dúvidas e teceu críticas que, depois destes anos, não foram respondidas”, nem mesmo com o trabalho do grupo que propôs e que funcionou no Parlamento durante sete meses, em 2013.
O comunista afirmou que a sociedade portuguesa se mantém dividida sobre a questão, que “não foi assegurada qualquer espécie de convergência ortográfica”, e que “a longo prazo a divergência é crescente, de acordo com a oralidade”. Recusou as dificuldades que colocam por se voltar atrás e defendeu a necessidade de um “faseamento para a desvinculação”. “A existência de um mau acordo ortográfico e de ausência de política da língua é catastrófica”, criticou Miguel Tiago. Que avisou ser impossível “continuar a fingir que nada se passa”. “Progresso e acordo sim, mas não a qualquer preço. O acordo ortográfico deve ser para a salvaguarda da língua e não para o interesse de editores e distribuidores.”
Também o projecto de resolução do Bloco, que recomendava ao Governo a “revisão técnica” do acordo, acabou chumbado. Luís Fazenda disse que o seu partido “continua a ver vantagens na aproximação ortográfica” entre as várias grafias da língua portuguesa. Mas “há uma suspeição sobre a conclusão, desenvolvimento e aplicação do acordo, em especial de que o Brasil chegue ao fim do prazo sem essa aplicação plena”.
Por isso, há que fazer agora uma avaliação para que “Portugal não fique com grafia isolada”, defende o BE. Mas é preciso fazer mais do que se propunha o grupo de trabalho proposto pelos deputados da direita, que Luís Fazenda classificou de “perfeitamente desnecessário” por, depois de tantas amputações à proposta inicial, não fará mais do que o grupo que trabalhou no Parlamento. “O tempo é agora de fixar algumas condições deste processo e exigir ao Governo que seja lesto nos seus contactos políticos e diplomáticos”, defendeu.
Ilustração / Peter Schrank / The economist
A Europa que nunca se debate
JOSÉ PACHECO PEREIRA 01/03/2014 – PÚBLICO
Caminhamos para uma nova eleição para o Parlamento Europeu e já sabemos de antemão que as questões europeias não vão ser debatidas. Podemos desejar que seja diferente, mas é assim por razões tão poderosas que nem vale a pena passarmos o tempo dessas eleições a lamentar-nos por isso não acontecer.
Não será por vontade dos principais candidatos, que certamente desejariam e vão tentar fazê-lo, principalmente Paulo Rangel e Francisco Assis, nem sequer por vontade da coligação PSD-CDS, que também preferiria, já por outras razões, que o debate fosse sobre a Europa e não sobre o estado de Portugal. Mas isso não vai acontecer por uma razão de fundo que é incontornável: o debate europeu não faz parte de qualquer agenda que os povos considerem “sua”, que possa ser prioritária em países como Portugal e, aliás, em quase todos os países da União Europeia. A participação dos povos das nações europeias foi e é persistentemente posta à margem de todas as decisões importantes tomadas no âmbito da União Europeia, por isso, não se pode esperar que atribuam qualquer interesse a mobilizar-se para votar para uma instituição que não lhes diz nada e que não sentem como relevante para a sua vida, neste caso o Parlamento Europeu.
Os únicos a quem a questão europeia mobiliza são os adversários da União Europeia, seja do próprio processo de integração europeu em geral, seja da actual configuração da União, com a combinação de um directório de facto, com uma gigantesca burocracia que se autojustifica como uma tecnocracia que “sabe” contra políticos e parlamentos que “não sabem” e são apenas ruído. E ilude-se quem não perceba que os sentimentos antieuropeus são hoje muito mais próximos do povo e da sua vontade do que o europeísmo utópico, de engenharia política antidemocrática e iluminada. Não encontrando no mainstream da vida política um reflexo das suas mais que justificadas preocupações sobre o curso autoritário e antidemocrático, falsamente federalista, mas inigualitário, com uma enorme duplicidade de critérios no tratamento das nações entre o Norte e o Sul, votam em partidos como a Frente Nacional em França, ou no UKIP no Reino Unido. O sobressalto hipócrita sobre o “ascenso da extrema-direita”, muitas vezes dirigido a partidos que são apenas eurocépticos, mas que não tem sentido demonizar como sendo de extrema-direita, reflecte mais os erros crassos dos europeístas do que um surto de nacionalismo antieuropeu.
É interessante, aliás, verificar que mais facilmente os europeístas classificam as posições dos seus adversários a partir do binómio nacionalismo-integração, não aceitando discutir que mesmo o soberanismo renascente nalguns países (não em todos) se deve a outra coisa, que, essa sim, eles evitam a todo o custo discutir: o curso autoritário e antidemocrático da União Europeia, que se acentuou muito na última década. E esse é um problema gravíssimo, que gera efeitos perversos, incluindo o renascer soberanista e mesmo nacionalista.
Veja-se o modo como a União Europeia, pela voz de Durão Barroso e mais mil e um comentaristas europeístas, reagiu aos resultados recentes do referendo suíço limitando a emigração – ameaçando os suíços porque votaram “mal”. Eu teria votado contra as propostas referendárias suíças sobre a emigração, e considero que é de criticar o seu resultado, mas nunca me esqueço que os suíços votaram livremente e que é suposto em democracia respeitar-se o resultado das votações. É, aliás, péssima esta tendência na União de não aceitar resultados, quando eles vão contra a ortodoxia dominante nas elites burocráticas e governamentais que a governam, e de exigir um determinado resultado, realizando-se quantos referendos sejam necessários até esse resultado se obter. Ou, pior ainda, quando um resultado é um “não” a um política crucial da vanguarda europeísta da União, como aconteceu com a Constituição Europeia na Holanda e na França, abandonar qualquer consulta popular e introduzir à socapa as mesmas medidas chumbadas no voto popular noutros documentos apenas aprovados entre governos, como aconteceu com o Tratado de Lisboa.
A hipocrisia face ao voto suíço vem de que, bem vistas as coisas, a legislação proposta não é assim tão diferente de outra legislação semelhante na União Europeia, em particular fora do Espaço Schengen, e que mesmo dentro dele as normas nacionais restritivas da livre circulação das pessoas são habituais e acompanhadas por práticas muito para além das leis, como os ciganos romenos ou búlgaros podem testemunhar. Acresce que Lampedusa é na Europa da União e não na Suíça.
Uma das razões pelas quais as pessoas, a começar pelos portugueses, não têm o mínimo interesse pelo debate europeu e vão naturalmente “impregnar” estas eleições de questões nacionais é que todas as decisões fundamentais sobre o seu destino, quer as que conhecem, quer as de que suspeitam, quer as que ignoram são cada vez mais tomadas fora de Portugal por governos estrangeiros, que, eles próprios, actuam em função dos seus interesses nacionais, ou por uma burocracia iluminada que não vai a votos, nem tem de se preocupar com legitimidades eleitorais.
É exactamente porque o debate europeu é subvalorizado que ninguém cuida das posições dos candidatos. Paulo Rangel é o mais europeísta de qualquer candidato europeu até agora. Basta assistir às suas intervenções e ao que escreve, por exemplo no PÚBLICO, para ver como ele é um crítico da própria ideia de soberania e independência, e é favorável a uma deslocação de muito do processo decisório do Parlamento português para instâncias europeias, como, aliás, está a acontecer já com o direito de veto por Bruxelas do Orçamento português no âmbito do Pacto Orçamental, ou seja, sem ser em situação de “emergência financeira”, como normalidade. Os portugueses são cuidadosamente mantidos à parte de um processo de minimização daquilo que é a função fundamental de um parlamento numa democracia, votar o Orçamento. Foi a reivindicação de “no taxation without representation” que iniciou a guerra da independência americana contra os ingleses.
Rangel entende que não basta que este processo seja de facto, deve ser também de jure, como defendeu num debate na Fundação Soares dos Santos. Num artigo recente congratula-se com a deslocação da decisão constitucional do âmbito nacional, no caso alemão, para o Tribunal Europeu, o que, por analogia, implicaria que no caso português uma subordinação da Constituição Portuguesa a um direito constitucional da União, que era uma das tendências implícitas na chamada "Constituição Europeia", chumbada pelo voto em vários países.
No PPE ele alinha com o europeísmo mais extremo, onde até agora o próprio PSD era muito mais moderado, mas, como ninguém cura de ser coerente nestas matérias (com excepção de Rangel), mas apenas utilitário e pragmático, já há candidato e basta. Como de há muito tempo sei que o CDS engole tudo que se lhe põe no prato, é interessante ver como este partido, recentemente convertido à “eurocalmaria”, pode fazer parte de uma lista encabeçada por um “euro-extremista”. Ter posições próprias e pensadas é um mérito de Rangel, que facilita e dá transparência ao debate, mas desconheço como é possível compatibilizá-las com as posições tradicionais do PSD e do CDS, muito mais conservadoras no plano europeu.
Com candidatos como Rangel e Assis, que é bastante próximo de muitas posições de Rangel, o debate europeu ficará prejudicado por se fazer apenas dentro de uma ortodoxia europeísta que, no meu ponto de vista, de há muito perdeu o contacto com a realidade das nações europeias, com aquilo que é hoje a União Europeia, e com a vontade dos povos e nações da Europa. Estamos dentro de um voluntarismo iluminado, que responde aos problemas acentuando a mesma receita e que só pode continuar a existir e a moldar a União se não for a votos, a começar pelo voto referendário que é o que melhor exprime um “sim” ou “não” a questões que são simples, mas que ninguém quer colocar com clareza. Por tudo isto, para a reflexão sobre a Europa as eleições para o Parlamento Europeu serão inúteis. Já não acontecerá o mesmo sobre a política portuguesa.
Nigel Farage declared that he will resign if his party fails to win a seat in parliament in the 2015 election. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Nigel Farage: parts of Britain are 'like a foreign land'
Ukip leader uses spring conference speech to make immigration the focal point of campaign for European and local elections
Andrew Sparrow, political correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 28 February 2014 / http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/28/nigel-farage-ukip-immigration-speech
Nigel Farage said mass immigration was making parts of the country appear "unrecognisable" and like "a foreign land" at Ukip's spring conference on Friday.
The speech put immigration at the heart of Ukip's campaign for the European and local elections, which Farage followed with a declaration that he would resign if his party failed to win a seat in parliament in 2015. But he appeared to concede some concerns raised by Ukip about the scale of immigration from Bulgaria and Romania after the lifting of transitional controls in January may have been unfounded. The greatest potential immigration threat now
came from the eurozone, Farage claimed.
"In scores of our cities and market towns, this country in a short space of time has frankly become unrecognisable," Farage told his audience in Torquay. "Whether it is the impact on local schools and hospitals, whether it is the fact in many parts of England you don't hear English spoken any more. This is not the kind of community we want to leave to our children and grandchildren."
Asked at his press conference to justify the comments, Farage cited a recent experience on a rush-hour train leaving Charing Cross. "It was a stopper going out and we stopped at London Bridge, New Cross, Hither Green, it was not until we got past Grove Park that I could hear English being audibly spoken in the carriage," he said. "Does that make me feel slightly awkward? Yes it does." Asked why he minded people speaking in foreign languages, he replied: "I don't understand them … I don't feel very comfortable in that situation and I don't think the majority of British people do."
With some commentators tipping Ukip to win the Europeans elections, even though polls have yet to show it overtaking Labour, members arrived in Torquay knowing expectations are high but that the party is still tainted by associations with eccentrics and extremism. Ukip believes its stance on immigration can win votes from all sides of the political spectrum.
Last year Ukip's anti-immigration campaign focused on the impact of transitional controls being lifted from January 2014. Ukip was strongly criticised for issuing campaign leaflets saying 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians would have the right to live, work and draw benefits in the UK from the start of the year. But, after two months, early indications are that the mass influx some predicted has not materialised – David Cameron recently said immigration levels from Bulgaria and Romania were "reasonable" – and in his speech Farage instead raised a fresh immigration concern.
"It isn't directly Romania and Bulgaria I'm necessarily concerned about. What I'm really concerned about is the fact in the eurozone, in the Mediterranean there is no sign or prospect of any significant recovery at all," he said.
"If the eurozone goes as badly over the next few years as I still believe that it will, we face the prospect of the largest migratory wave that has ever come to this country and we have three political parties who are not prepared to do anything about it."
Farage also said that, if Ukip did well in 2014, they should be able to use that as a platform to win some seats in the general election. Asked if he would resign as leader if failed to get a Ukip MP elected, he replied: "Good lord, yes. I will be out the door before you can say Jack Robinson."
He faced a barrage of hostile questions at a press conference about the party's decision to appoint Neil Hamilton, the disgraced cash-for-questions former Tory minister, as Ukip's campaign manager for the 2014 election. Farage insisted that Hamilton was just a "backroom boy", but this was disputed by Hamilton himself who told the BBC's Newsnight that he saw himself as "front-of-house".
In response to questions about Hamilton's role with the party, Farage said: "There are things that went wrong in his career. We all have things in our life that have gone wrong." It was in the past, he insisted.
But Hamilton himself showed no contrition himself when he used his speech to attack the Westminster political class.
He attacked "the deracinated political elite of parasites, the bureaucrats, the Eurocrats, the quangocrats, the expenses-fiddlers, the assorted chancers, living it up at taxpayers' expense". It was Ukip's historic role "to sweep them all away", he said.
Agbogbloshie: the world's largest e-waste dump – in pictures
Purchasers, and eventual discarders, of electronics expect the items to be recycled properly. But almost all electronic devices, especially older ones, contain toxic chemicals which make it expensive to recycle them – even if they are recyclable. As a result, illegal dumping has become a lucrative business.
Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Accra, in Ghana, is home to the world’s largest e-waste dumping site. Discarded electronic goods define the landscape of this former wetland and recreation area, where males aged from seven to 25 smash devices to get to the metals, especially copper. Injuries, such as burns, untreated wounds, eye damage, lung and back problems, go hand in hand with chronic nausea, anorexia, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems. Most of the workers die from cancer in their 20s.
Photographer Kevin McElvaney documents the site and its people.
theguardian.com, Thursday 27 February 2014 13.53 GMT
Adam Nasara, 25, uses Styropor, an insulating material from refrigerators, to light a fire
Old monitors are used to build bridges
Ibrahim Abdulai, 23, is a ‘chief’. Although no one works for him, he is able to decide who is allowed to burn goods in this particular area of the site
Cows with open wounds graze on the site
Adjoa, nine, sells small water bags to the workers. They drink it and use it to extinguish fires.
PCs and electronic devices that look in reasonable condition are sold untested in Accra
Rahman Dauda, 12, started working here three years ago and burns e-waste with a few friends. ‘Whenever possible I go to school,’ he says
Pieter Adongo, 17, holds a Polaroid photo of himself and his friends Desmond Atanga, 17, and Sampson Kwabena, 16. Many young people believe this is just a temporary situation and hope to find their way out of it one day
John Mahama, 21, suffers from insomnia and has debilitating headaches, but continues to work
Kwabena Labobe, 10, plays on the site. His parents are not able to send him to school and forbid him to burn e-waste
Adam Latif, 21
quinta-feira, 27 de fevereiro de 2014
Parque de estacionamento no Cais do Sodré tem em exposição vestígios romanos
INÊS BOAVENTURA 27/02/2014 / PÚBLICO
O parque subterrâneo, na Praça D. Luís I, foi inaugurado esta quinta-feira.
Lisboa ganhou esta quinta-feira um novo parque de estacionamento subterrâneo, com 202 lugares, junto ao Cais do Sodré. No parque é possível apreciar alguns dos vestígios arqueológicos que foram descobertos durante a sua construção, incluindo ânforas e peças de cerâmica romanas.
A construção desta infra-estrutura, localizada na Praça D. Luís I, começou em 2010 mas só agora ficou concluída. José Tavares da Silva, presidente do conselho de administração da Empark, a empresa com quem a Câmara de Lisboa celebrou um contrato de gestão do espaço por 55 anos, lembrou que esta obra “teve algumas vicissitudes, decorrentes dos achados arqueológicos encontrados”.
Como o PÚBLICO noticiou em 2012, no local foram descobertas uma grade de maré do século XVII (para reparação naval ou lançamento de embarcações) e partes de um navio dessa época, além de uma escadaria e um paredão do Forte de S. Paulo (século XVII), parte do Cais da Casa da Moeda (século XVIII) e fornalhas da Fundição do Arsenal Real (século XIX). Mais tarde os arqueólogos encontraram também um fundeadouro romano (um local de ancoragem de embarcações) usado entre os séculos I a.C. e V d.C., uma madeira de uma embarcação, meia centena de ânforas e peças de cerâmica.
O parque de estacionamento agora inaugurado tem quatro pisos, em cada um dos quais é possível ver alguns dos materiais descobertos durante as escavações, bem como instrumentos utilizados pelos arqueólogos nos seus trabalhos. Esses objectos, devidamente legendados, encontram-se expostos em vitrines de vidro, nas escadas de acesso a peões em cada um dos andares e numa zona contígua ao elevador no piso -1.
Na abertura desta infra-estrutura marcaram presença o vereador Manuel Salgado, da maioria, e Fernando Seara, do PSD. O presidente da Câmara de Lisboa, António Costa, esteve ausente, embora na placa que foi descerrada na ocasião constasse o seu nome.
No seu discurso, Manuel Salgado lembrou as dificuldades desta obra, que segundo a Empark teve um custo de seis milhões de euros. Entre elas, elencou o vereador do Urbanismo e da Reabilitação Urbana, os trabalhos arqueológicos mas também “a conjuntura, que é extremamente adversa para as empresas de construção”. Foi, admitiu, uma empreitada “extremamente penosa” para os residentes e comerciantes da zona, “pelo tempo que acarretou”.
O autarca sublinhou que está é “uma obra particularmente importante”, da qual poderão beneficiar “várias actividades” da área do Cais do Sodré. Até porque, disse, permitiu uma “melhoria da qualidade do espaço público”.
Conflict fears rise after pro-Russian gunmen seize Crimean parliament / The Guardian . Moscovo joga com as divisões na Crimeia. FMI “pronto a responder” a pedido de ajuda de Kiev. / Público.
Conflict fears rise after pro-Russian gunmen seize Crimean parliament
Gunmen storm Crimea's regional administrative complex in Simferopol and hoist Russian flag above parliament building
Harriet Salem in Simferopol, Shaun Walker in Kiev, and Luke Harding
The Guardian, Friday 28 February 2014/ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/24/ukraine-crimea-russia-secession
Fears of a major regional conflict in Crimea pitting Russia against the west intensified on Thursday after pro-Russian gunmen seized the regional government and parliament building in a well co-ordinated military operation, while similar groups were on Friday morning controlling access to the airports of Simferopol and Sevastopol.
Early on Friday morning about 50 armed gunman reportedly marched into Simferopol's airport after arriving in Kamaz trucks. They first cordoned off the domestic terminal and then moving on to other areas. Russia Today described them as similarly dressed and equipped to the "local ethnic Russian 'self-defence squads'" that seized the parliament and government buildings.
Witnesses said the men at the airport were bearing Russian navy flags. The AFP news agency said the airport was operating as Friday dawned, with passengers checking in for flights. The Associated Press said dozens of the armed men continued to patrol the airport and they refused to speak to media. AFP said representatives from the new leadership in Kiev had been due to arrive at the airport on Friday.
In Sevastopol armed men were reported to have set up a perimeter around the city's combined military-civilian airport, known as Belbek, on Friday morning. The Interfax news agency described them as Russian servicemen who said they had gone to Belbek to stop "fighters" flying in.
On Thursday morning in Simferopol men dressed in fatigues stormed Crimea's administration, hoisting a Russian flag above the parliament building. About 120 men were holed up inside armed with heavy weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles, witnesses said.
With gunmen controlling the building, Crimea's parliament voted to hold a referendum on the region's status on 25 May, the same day Ukraine goes to the polls in presidential elections. It also voted to sack the region's cabinet. The move puts the predominantly ethnic-Russian region on a collision course with Kiev's interim government and will fuel concern Ukraine is sliding inexorably towards break-up.
It was unclear whether the gunmen were undercover Russian soldiers or members of a pro-Russian self-defence militia formed in response to Ukraine's revolution, which has included radical nationalist groups. The former head of the Crimean parliament, Serhiy Kunitsyn, described the men as professionally trained and armed with enough weaponry to defend the complex for a month.
Late on Thursday the US vice-president, Joe Biden, spoke with Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Biden promised Ukraine's new leadership the full support of the US, a White House statement said.
Russia's ousted ally Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukraine president, who fled Kiev last week after his troops shot dead more than 80 people, resurfaced on Thursday to insist he was still the country's legitimate leader – excoriating Ukraine's new leadership as he did so.
That government confirmed 39-year-old former opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk as acting prime minister, and gave two of the former regime's most prominent victims places in the new administration. Tetiana Chornovol, an investigative journalist beaten up by thugs, heads a new anti-corruption office. Activist Dmytro Bulatov, who was kidnapped and had part of his ear cut off, becomes Ukraine's youth minister.
Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, who has been in the job since Yanukovych fled the country, warned Russia not to intervene in the crisis by moving troops. The Kremlin's Black Sea fleet is based near Simferopol in the port of Sevastopol. Turchynov said: "I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet. Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory [the base] will be seen by us as military aggression." Ukraine's foreign ministry also summoned Russia's acting envoy in Kiev for consultations.
The White House said it was closely watching Russian's military manoeuvres, ordered by Vladimir Putin next to Ukraine's border. Putin also put fighter jets on a state of high alert.
The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, called on the Kremlin to show restraint and reaffirmed Washington's commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
After meeting Angela Merkel, David Cameron said he and the German chancellor were particularly concerned. Nato's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, urged Russia not to do anything that would escalate tension or create misunderstanding.
Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, described the seizure of government buildings in the Crimea a "very dangerous game". He told a news conference: "This is a drastic step, and I'm warning those who did this and those who allowed them to do this, because this is how regional conflicts begin."
Hours after the parliament building was seized, Yanukovych revealed he was in Russia and had sought protection from Putin. He said he would hold a press conference on Friday in Rostov-on-Don, close to Ukraine's border and his home city of Donetsk.
His unusual choice of a provincial press conference venue suggests he still nurtures hopes of a return to power, possibly as the leader of a breakaway Russian-backed enclave encompassing Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Yanukovych appeared to give approval to secessionist pro-Russian forces in Crimea, and said an "orgy of extremism" had swept the country. "Now it is becoming clear that the people in south-eastern Ukraine and in Crimea do not accept the power vacuum and complete lawlessness in the country," he said.
In Kiev, members of Ukraine's new government hinted that the country would sign an association agreement with the EU next month. It was Yanukovych's decision in December to dump the agreement – and instead accept a bailout from Russia – that prompted the street demonstrations that eventually led to his overthrow. Ukrainian officials branded the referendum decision by Crimea's parliament as unconstitutional.
Earlier in Simferopol, the gunmen barricaded doors into the parliament building with wooden crates. Police sealed off the area on Thursday, as a crowd supportive of the seizure gathered outside. Two people died and 35 were injured during clashes outside the building on Wednesday between pro-Russian demonstrators and Muslim Tatars. About half of Crimea's 2 million population are ethnic Russians. The Tatars – the peninsula's original Turkic-speaking Muslim inhabitants – are 300,000 strong and support the authorities in Kiev.
Witnesses described the moment when the armed men turned up. "We were building barricades in the night to protect parliament. Then this young Russian guy came up with a pistol … we all lay down, some more ran up, there was some shooting and around 50 went in through the window," Leonid Khazanov, an ethnic Russian, told Reuters.
Khazanov added: "They're still there … Then the police came, they seemed scared. I asked them [the armed men] what they wanted, and they said: 'To make our own decisions, not to have Kiev telling us what to do'."
The former head of the central executive body of Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Jemilev, said the situation was extremely worrying. He suggested the gunmen had arrived from Sevastopol, where the Russian fleet is based. "The people in camouflage and without any distinctive signs came by buses from the Sevastopol side. There are reports of movement of armed vehicles of the Russian fleet in different directions. We also got signs that in many hotels there are Russian soldiers wearing civilian clothes. The Russian general consul office says they have nothing to do with these events. But they would hardly tell the truth."
Jemilev speculated that the gunmen could be Russian soldiers or members of Berkut, the now-disbanded riot police unit deployed against opposition protesters in Kiev. Lifenews.ru, a pro-Kremlin Russian website with links to Russia's spy agencies, however, said they were veterans from the army and police. According to US diplomatic cables leaked in 2010 by Wikileaks, Russia's military intelligence wing – the GRU – is highly active in Crimea.
About 100 police had gathered in front of the parliament building on Thursday. A similar number of people carrying Russian flags later marched up to the building chanting "Russia, Russia" and holding a sign calling for a Crimean referendum.
Many wore orange-and-black striped ribbons that symbolise support for Russia. One of them, Alexei, 30, said: "We have our own constitution, Crimea is autonomous. The government in Kiev are fascists, and what they're doing is illegal … We need to show our support for the guys inside [parliament]. Power should be ours."
"Yesterday Russian people were attacked and murdered by Tatar extremists. We will not allow this fascism from Kiev to happen here," said 43-year-old construction worker, Spartak. "Crimea wants independence and we want parliament to hold a referendum on this. We have been hijacked."
Policemen informed passersby that Karl Marx Street was closed due to the presence of snipers in the areas. Nearby shops and businesses have closed and pulled down their shutters.
The acting interior minister, Arsen Avakov, who said the attackers had automatic weapons and machine guns, urged calm. He said on Facebook: "Provocateurs are on the march. It is the time for cool heads."
Turchynov, speaking to the parliament in Kiev, described the attackers as "criminals in military fatigues with automatic weapons".
He also called on Moscow not to violate the terms of an agreement that gives the Russian Black Sea fleet basing rights at Sevastopol until 2042.
Moscovo joga com as divisões na Crimeia
Grupo armado pró-russo invadiu o Parlamento da Crimeia, que acabou por votar a realização de um referendo sobre o estatuto de autonomia
João Ruela Ribeiro / 28-2-2014/ PÚBLICO
A Crimeia é a zona da Ucrânia com maior potencial para desencadear uma crise que conduza a um aumento dramático das tensões entre a Rússia e o Ocidente
Nos últimos dias, os olhos do mundo passaram da Praça da Independência, epicentro da revolução que derrubou Viktor Ianukovich, para a região da Crimeia, onde os clamores em favor do separatismo têm subido de tom. Ontem, o edifício do Parlamento regional foi ocupado por um grupo armado pró-russo, o executivo foi demitido e foi marcado um referendo sobre a autonomia da região.
No exterior, um grupo de manifestantes que tinham acampado durante a noite lançava gritos de apoio perante o vislumbre da bandeira russa içada no edifício do Parlamento, em Simferopol. “Esperávamos por este momento há vinte anos. Queremos uma Rússia unificada”, afirmou um dos líderes do protesto, relatava o correspondente da BBC. Estas palavras encerram um confl ito de raízes profundas que, no contexto da turbulência política na Ucrânia, é agora transposto para a arena internacional.
Enquanto a instabilidade tomava conta da pequena península no mar Negro, a Rússia dava início a manobras militares na zona ocidental, mobilizando 150 mil soldados, 880 tanques, 90 aeronaves e 80 embarcações. Ouviram-se os tambores da guerra logo pela manhã, com o Presidente interino da Ucrânia, Olekander Turchinov, a avisar que “qualquer movimento de tropas armadas será considerado como uma agressão militar”.
Do Ocidente também vieram avisos dirigidos a Moscovo e a Simferopol. O secretário- geral da NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, mostrouse “preocupado com os desenvolvimentos na Crimeia” e apelou à Rússia “para não tomar nenhuma acção que faça escalar a tensão”. Washington alertou, através do secretário de Estado da Defesa, Chuck Hagel, para a possibilidade do Kremlin dar “passos que possam ser mal interpretados, ou levar a cálculos errados, numa altura muito delicada”.
Moscovo assegurou, por seu turno, que os exercícios anunciados “não apresentam qualquer ameaça” e que as actividades estão relacionadas apenas com a “preparação para combate”, segundo o ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros russo, Sergei Lavrov.
O que está em causa naquele território de 2,3 milhões de habitantes? Um artigo de opinião de dois analistas do Centro Carnegie de Moscovo dá a resposta: “De todos os potenciais conflitos na Ucrânia pós-revolucionária, nenhum é mais importante do que uma crise séria na Crimeia, que pode levar a uma guerra quente na Ucrânia e aumentar de forma dramática as tensões entre a Rússia e o Ocidente.”
A Crimeia é a única região autónoma da Ucrânia e é também a única em que a maioria dos habitantes (cerca de 64%) é de origem russa. Para além disso, a província passou para a administração ucraniana apenas em 1954, pela mão de Nikita Kruschev, quando a Ucrânia pertencia à União Soviética. O domínio russo vem desde o final do século XVIII.
Não é de admirar, portanto, que a Crimeia registe o maior apoio a Moscovo e, consequentemente, onde Ianukovich recolheu grande parte dos votos. A sua deposição foi vista como um golpe de extremistas radicais e neonazis que derrubaram um Presidente legitimamente eleito e que agora ameaçam a sua cultura e a língua. A verdade é que uma das primeiras decisões dos novos governantes foi a revogação de uma lei que definia o russo como uma das línguas oficiais nas regiões onde a maioria da população é russófona.
Por outro lado, a maioria russa na Crimeia convive com uma minoria tártara que alimenta um grande ressentimento em relação a Moscovo, fruto de décadas de perseguição durante o domínio soviético, que culminou numa deportação em massa em 1944. Também eles receiam que a recente afirmação
FMI “pronto a responder” a pedido de ajuda de Kiev
João Ruela Ribeiro / 28 fev 2014 / PÚBLICO
O F u n d o Mo n e t á r i o Internacional confirmou ontem que recebeu um pedido de assistência do Governo da Ucrânia ao qual está “pronto a responder”. A directora do fundo, Christine Lagarde, revelou, citada pela AFP, que será enviada uma equipa ao país “nos próximos dias”.
O novo primeiro-ministro, Arseni Iatseniuk, revelou haver um buraco nas contas públicas superior a 50 mil milhões de euros, responsabilizando o Presidente deposto, Viktor Ianukovich. Nos últimos três anos, “a soma de 70 mil milhões de dólares (51 mil milhões de euros) saiu do sistema financeiro da Ucrânia em direcção a contas em paraísos fiscais”, afirmou perante o Parlamento.
O Parlamento aprovou ontem o novo Governo interino da Ucrânia por larga maioria. O novo primeiroministro optou por um discurso realista que sublinha as dificuldades que o país terá pela frente.
O Presidente interino, Oleksander Turchinov, foi o primeiro a prever um futuro sombrio: “Este é um governo condenado a conseguir trabalhar por apenas três ou quatro meses, porque terá de tomar decisões impopulares.” Seguiu-se Iatseniuk, que se referiu à necessidade de um “governo de kamikazes”, expressão que já tinha utilizado na véspera.
O diagnóstico foi posto a nu por Iatseniuk, que, aos 39 anos, já passou pelas pastas da Economia e dos Negócios Estrangeiros e foi governador do Banco Nacional da Ucrânia. “As contas públicas estão a zero (...). A dívida pública é de 75 mil milhões de dólares neste momento. (...) O desemprego está num ritmo galopante, assim como a fuga de investimentos.”
As medidas “impopulares” vão passar pela “redução dos programas sociais e das subvenções” e pela “redução das despesas orçamentais”. Próximo poderá estar um empréstimo dos EUA no valor de mil milhões de dólares, segundo revelou o secretário de Estado John Kerry, que acrescentou que a Europa está a equacionar um pacote no valor de 1,5 mil milhões. A Rússia mantém em suspenso um acordo assinado com a anterior Administração, em que estava prevista a concessão de um empréstimo superior a 11 mil milhões de euros.
Arseni Iatseniuk não deixou de referir a ameaça separatista na região autónoma da Crimeia, onde um comando pró-russo tomou as sedes do Parlamento e governo regionais.
“A integridade territorial está ameaçada, assistimos a manifestações de separatismo na Crimeia”, afirmou. “Disse aos russos para não nos enfrentarmos, nós somos amigos e parceiros.” O tom conciliador de Iatseniuk veio depois da notícia de que Moscovo tinha iniciado exercícios militares perto da fronteira com a Ucrânia e que as suas forças armadas foram postas em alerta máximo.
Se, por um lado, os novos governantes tentam apaziguar as relações com a Rússia, por outro, fazem da aproximação à Europa uma das prioridades. “A Ucrânia vê o seu futuro na Europa, como membro da União Europeia”, afirmou Iatseniuk, deixando antever que um dos próximos passos poderá ser a retoma das negociações para a assinatura do acordo com Bruxelas rejeitado em Novembro por Ianukovich. A esta estratégia não será alheia a nomeação de um vice-primeiro-ministro para a Integração Europeia, Boris Taraiuk, que foi ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros em quatro governos.
O novo governo é descrito como “uma combinação de antigas caras manchadas por alegações de corrupção, novos heróis revolucionários e nomeados que podem fazer a diferença”, segundo a jornalista do Kiev Post Katia Gorchinskaia.
What’s gone wrong with democracy
Democracy was the most successful political idea of the 20th century. Why has it run into trouble, and what can be done to revive it?
THE ECONOMIST / ESSAY / http://www.economist.com/news/essays/21596796-democracy-was-most-successful-political-idea-20th-century-why-has-it-run-trouble-and-what-can-be-do
THE protesters who have overturned the politics of Ukraine have many aspirations for their country. Their placards called for closer relations with the European Union (EU), an end to Russian intervention in Ukraine’s politics and the establishment of a clean government to replace the kleptocracy of President Viktor Yanukovych. But their fundamental demand is one that has motivated people over many decades to take a stand against corrupt, abusive and autocratic governments. They want a rules-based democracy.
It is easy to understand why. Democracies are on average richer than non-democracies, are less likely to go to war and have a better record of fighting corruption. More fundamentally, democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures. That so many people in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to its enduring appeal.
Yet these days the exhilaration generated by events like those in Kiev is mixed with anxiety, for a troubling pattern has repeated itself in capital after capital. The people mass in the main square. Regime-sanctioned thugs try to fight back but lose their nerve in the face of popular intransigence and global news coverage. The world applauds the collapse of the regime and offers to help build a democracy. But turfing out an autocrat turns out to be much easier than setting up a viable democratic government. The new regime stumbles, the economy flounders and the country finds itself in a state at least as bad as it was before. This is what happened in much of the Arab spring, and also in Ukraine’s Orange revolution a decade ago. In 2004 Mr Yanukovych was ousted from office by vast street protests, only to be re-elected to the presidency (with the help of huge amounts of Russian money) in 2010, after the opposition politicians who replaced him turned out to be just as hopeless.
Democracy is going through a difficult time. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes. Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world.
In the second half of the 20th century, democracies had taken root in the most difficult circumstances possible—in Germany, which had been traumatised by Nazism, in India, which had the world’s largest population of poor people, and, in the 1990s, in South Africa, which had been disfigured by apartheid. Decolonialisation created a host of new democracies in Africa and Asia, and autocratic regimes gave way to democracy in Greece (1974), Spain (1975), Argentina (1983), Brazil (1985) and Chile (1989). The collapse of the Soviet Union created many fledgling democracies in central Europe. By 2000 Freedom House, an American think-tank, classified 120 countries, or 63% of the world total, as democracies.
Representatives of more than 100 countries gathered at the World Forum on Democracy in Warsaw that year to proclaim that “the will of the people” was “the basis of the authority of government”. A report issued by America’s State Department declared that having seen off “failed experiments” with authoritarian and totalitarian forms of government, “it seems that now, at long last, democracy is triumphant.”
Such hubris was surely understandable after such a run of successes. But stand farther back and the triumph of democracy looks rather less inevitable. After the fall of Athens, where it was first developed, the political model had lain dormant until the Enlightenment more than 2,000 years later. In the 18th century only the American revolution produced a sustainable democracy. During the 19th century monarchists fought a prolonged rearguard action against democratic forces. In the first half of the 20th century nascent democracies collapsed in Germany, Spain and Italy. By 1941 there were only 11 democracies left, and Franklin Roosevelt worried that it might not be possible to shield “the great flame of democracy from the blackout of barbarism”.
The progress seen in the late 20th century has stalled in the 21st. Even though around 40% of the world’s population, more people than ever before, live in countries that will hold free and fair elections this year, democracy’s global advance has come to a halt, and may even have gone into reverse. Freedom House reckons that 2013 was the eighth consecutive year in which global freedom declined, and that its forward march peaked around the beginning of the century. Between 1980 and 2000 the cause of democracy experienced only a few setbacks, but since 2000 there have been many. And democracy’s problems run deeper than mere numbers suggest. Many nominal democracies have slid towards autocracy, maintaining the outward appearance of democracy through elections, but without the rights and institutions that are equally important aspects of a functioning democratic system.
Faith in democracy flares up in moments of triumph, such as the overthrow of unpopular regimes in Cairo or Kiev, only to sputter out once again. Outside the West, democracy often advances only to collapse. And within the West, democracy has too often become associated with debt and dysfunction at home and overreach abroad. Democracy has always had its critics, but now old doubts are being treated with renewed respect as the weaknesses of democracy in its Western strongholds, and the fragility of its influence elsewhere, have become increasingly apparent. Why has democracy lost its forward momentum?
The return of history
THE two main reasons are the financial crisis of 2007-08 and the rise of China. The damage the crisis did was psychological as well as financial. It revealed fundamental weaknesses in the West’s political systems, undermining the self-confidence that had been one of their great assets. Governments had steadily extended entitlements over decades, allowing dangerous levels of debt to develop, and politicians came to believe that they had abolished boom-bust cycles and tamed risk. Many people became disillusioned with the workings of their political systems—particularly when governments bailed out bankers with taxpayers’ money and then stood by impotently as financiers continued to pay themselves huge bonuses. The crisis turned the Washington consensus into a term of reproach across the emerging world.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party has broken the democratic world’s monopoly on economic progress. Larry Summers, of Harvard University, observes that when America was growing fastest, it doubled living standards roughly every 30 years. China has been doubling living standards roughly every decade for the past 30 years. The Chinese elite argue that their model—tight control by the Communist Party, coupled with a relentless effort to recruit talented people into its upper ranks—is more efficient than democracy and less susceptible to gridlock. The political leadership changes every decade or so, and there is a constant supply of fresh talent as party cadres are promoted based on their ability to hit targets.
China’s critics rightly condemn the government for controlling public opinion in all sorts of ways, from imprisoning dissidents to censoring internet discussions. Yet the regime’s obsession with control paradoxically means it pays close attention to public opinion. At the same time China’s leaders have been able to tackle some of the big problems of state-building that can take decades to deal with in a democracy. In just two years China has extended pension coverage to an extra 240m rural dwellers, for example—far more than the total number of people covered by America’s public-pension system.
Many Chinese are prepared to put up with their system if it delivers growth. The 2013 Pew Survey of Global Attitudes showed that 85% of Chinese were “very satisfied” with their country’s direction, compared with 31% of Americans. Some Chinese intellectuals have become positively boastful. Zhang Weiwei of Fudan University argues that democracy is destroying the West, and particularly America, because it institutionalises gridlock, trivialises decision-making and throws up second-rate presidents like George Bush junior. Yu Keping of Beijing University argues that democracy makes simple things “overly complicated and frivolous” and allows “certain sweet-talking politicians to mislead the people”. Wang Jisi, also of Beijing University, has observed that “many developing countries that have introduced Western values and political systems are experiencing disorder and chaos” and that China offers an alternative model. Countries from Africa (Rwanda) to the Middle East (Dubai) to South-East Asia (Vietnam) are taking this advice seriously.
China’s advance is all the more potent in the context of a series of disappointments for democrats since 2000. The first great setback was in Russia. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the democratisation of the old Soviet Union seemed inevitable. In the 1990s Russia took a few drunken steps in that direction under Boris Yeltsin. But at the end of 1999 he resigned and handed power to Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who has since been both prime minister and president twice. This postmodern tsar has destroyed the substance of democracy in Russia, muzzling the press and imprisoning his opponents, while preserving the show—everyone can vote, so long as Mr Putin wins. Autocratic leaders in Venezuela, Ukraine, Argentina and elsewhere have followed suit, perpetuating a perverted simulacrum of democracy rather than doing away with it altogether, and thus discrediting it further.
The next big setback was the Iraq war. When Saddam Hussein’s fabled weapons of mass destruction failed to materialise after the American-led invasion of 2003, Mr Bush switched instead to justifying the war as a fight for freedom and democracy. “The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies’ defeat,” he argued in his second inaugural address. This was more than mere opportunism: Mr Bush sincerely believed that the Middle East would remain a breeding ground for terrorism so long as it was dominated by dictators. But it did the democratic cause great harm. Left-wingers regarded it as proof that democracy was just a figleaf for American imperialism. Foreign-policy realists took Iraq’s growing chaos as proof that American-led promotion of democratisation was a recipe for instability. And disillusioned neoconservatives such as Francis Fukuyama, an American political scientist, saw it as proof that democracy cannot put down roots in stony ground.
A third serious setback was Egypt. The collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011, amid giant protests, raised hopes that democracy would spread in the Middle East. But the euphoria soon turned to despair. Egypt’s ensuing elections were won not by liberal activists (who were hopelessly divided into a myriad of Pythonesque parties) but by Muhammad Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Morsi treated democracy as a winner-takes-all system, packing the state with Brothers, granting himself almost unlimited powers and creating an upper house with a permanent Islamic majority. In July 2013 the army stepped in, arresting Egypt’s first democratically elected president, imprisoning leading members of the Brotherhood and killing hundreds of demonstrators. Along with war in Syria and anarchy in Libya, this has dashed the hope that the Arab spring would lead to a flowering of democracy across the Middle East.
Meanwhile some recent recruits to the democratic camp have lost their lustre. Since the introduction of democracy in 1994 South Africa has been ruled by the same party, the African National Congress, which has become progressively more self-serving. Turkey, which once seemed to combine moderate Islam with prosperity and democracy, is descending into corruption and autocracy. In Bangladesh, Thailand and Cambodia, opposition parties have boycotted recent elections or refused to accept their results.
All this has demonstrated that building the institutions needed to sustain democracy is very slow work indeed, and has dispelled the once-popular notion that democracy will blossom rapidly and spontaneously once the seed is planted. Although democracy may be a “universal aspiration”, as Mr Bush and Tony Blair insisted, it is a culturally rooted practice. Western countries almost all extended the right to vote long after the establishment of sophisticated political systems, with powerful civil services and entrenched constitutional rights, in societies that cherished the notions of individual rights and independent judiciaries.
Yet in recent years the very institutions that are meant to provide models for new democracies have come to seem outdated and dysfunctional in established ones. The United States has become a byword for gridlock, so obsessed with partisan point-scoring that it has come to the verge of defaulting on its debts twice in the past two years. Its democracy is also corrupted by gerrymandering, the practice of drawing constituency boundaries to entrench the power of incumbents. This encourages extremism, because politicians have to appeal only to the party faithful, and in effect disenfranchises large numbers of voters. And money talks louder than ever in American politics. Thousands of lobbyists (more than 20 for every member of Congress) add to the length and complexity of legislation, the better to smuggle in special privileges. All this creates the impression that American democracy is for sale and that the rich have more power than the poor, even as lobbyists and donors insist that political expenditure is an exercise in free speech. The result is that America’s image—and by extension that of democracy itself—has taken a terrible battering.
Nor is the EU a paragon of democracy. The decision to introduce the euro in 1999 was taken largely by technocrats; only two countries, Denmark and Sweden, held referendums on the matter (both said no). Efforts to win popular approval for the Lisbon Treaty, which consolidated power in Brussels, were abandoned when people started voting the wrong way. During the darkest days of the euro crisis the euro-elite forced Italy and Greece to replace democratically elected leaders with technocrats. The European Parliament, an unsuccessful attempt to fix Europe’s democratic deficit, is both ignored and despised. The EU has become a breeding ground for populist parties, such as Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, which claim to defend ordinary people against an arrogant and incompetent elite. Greece’s Golden Dawn is testing how far democracies can tolerate Nazi-style parties. A project designed to tame the beast of European populism is instead poking it back into life.
The democratic distemper
EVEN in its heartland, democracy is clearly suffering from serious structural problems, rather than a few isolated ailments. Since the dawn of the modern democratic era in the late 19th century, democracy has expressed itself through nation-states and national parliaments. People elect representatives who pull the levers of national power for a fixed period. But this arrangement is now under assault from both above and below.
From above, globalisation has changed national politics profoundly. National politicians have surrendered ever more power, for example over trade and financial flows, to global markets and supranational bodies, and may thus find that they are unable to keep promises they have made to voters. International organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the European Union have extended their influence. There is a compelling logic to much of this: how can a single country deal with problems like climate change or tax evasion? National politicians have also responded to globalisation by limiting their discretion and handing power to unelected technocrats in some areas. The number of countries with independent central banks, for example, has increased from about
20 in 1980 to more than 160
From below come equally powerful challenges: from would-be breakaway nations, such as the Catalans and the Scots, from Indian states, from American city mayors. All are trying to reclaim power from national governments. There are also a host of what Moisés Naim, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, calls “micro-powers”, such as NGOs and lobbyists, which are disrupting traditional politics and making life harder for democratic and autocratic leaders alike. The internet makes it easier to organise and agitate; in a world where people can participate in reality-TV votes every week, or support a petition with the click of a mouse, the machinery and institutions of parliamentary democracy, where elections happen only every few years, look increasingly anachronistic. Douglas Carswell, a British member of parliament, likens traditional politics to HMV, a chain of British record shops that went bust, in a world where people are used to calling up whatever music they want whenever they want via Spotify, a popular digital music-streaming service.
The biggest challenge to democracy, however, comes neither from above nor below but from within—from the voters themselves. Plato’s great worry about democracy, that citizens would “live from day to day, indulging the pleasure of the moment”, has proved prescient. Democratic governments got into the habit of running big structural deficits as a matter of course, borrowing to give voters what they wanted in the short term, while neglecting long-term investment. France and Italy have not balanced their budgets for more than 30 years. The financial crisis starkly exposed the unsustainability of such debt-financed democracy.
With the post-crisis stimulus winding down, politicians must now confront the difficult trade-offs they avoided during years of steady growth and easy credit. But persuading voters to adapt to a new age of austerity will not prove popular at the ballot box. Slow growth and tight budgets will provoke conflict as interest groups compete for limited resources. To make matters worse, this competition is taking place as Western populations are ageing. Older people have always been better at getting their voices heard than younger ones, voting in greater numbers and organising pressure groups like America’s mighty AARP. They will increasingly have absolute numbers on their side. Many democracies now face a fight between past and future, between inherited entitlements and future investment.
Adjusting to hard times will be made even more difficult by a growing cynicism towards politics. Party membership is declining across the developed world: only 1% of Britons are now members of political parties compared with 20% in 1950. Voter turnout is falling, too: a study of 49 democracies found that it had declined by 10 percentage points between 1980-84 and 2007-
survey of seven European countries in 2012 found that more than half of voters
“had no trust in government” whatsoever. A YouGov opinion poll of British
voters in the same year found that 62% of those polled agreed that “politicians
tell lies all the time”.
Meanwhile the border between poking fun and launching protest campaigns is fast eroding. In 2010 Iceland’s Best Party, promising to be openly corrupt, won enough votes to co-run Reykjavik’s city council. And in
2013 a quarter of Italians
voted for a party founded by Beppe Grillo, a comedian. All this popular
cynicism about politics might be healthy if people demanded little from their
governments, but they continue to want a great deal. The result can be a toxic
and unstable mixture: dependency on government on the one hand, and disdain for
it on the other. The dependency forces government to overexpand and overburden
itself, while the disdain robs it of its legitimacy. Democratic dysfunction
goes hand in hand with democratic distemper.
Democracy’s problems in its heartland help explain its setbacks elsewhere. Democracy did well in the 20th century in part because of American hegemony: other countries naturally wanted to emulate the world’s leading power. But as China’s influence has grown, America and Europe have lost their appeal as role models and their appetite for spreading democracy. The Obama administration now seems paralysed by the fear that democracy will produce rogue regimes or empower jihadists. And why should developing countries regard democracy as the ideal form of government when the American government cannot even pass a budget, let alone plan for the future? Why should autocrats listen to lectures on democracy from Europe, when the euro-elite sacks elected leaders who get in the way of fiscal orthodoxy?
At the same time, democracies in the emerging world have encountered the same problems as those in the rich world. They too have overindulged in short-term spending rather than long-term investment. Brazil allows public-sector workers to retire at 53 but has done little to create a modern airport system. India pays off vast numbers of client groups but invests too little in infrastructure. Political systems have been captured by interest groups and undermined by anti-democratic habits. Patrick French, a British historian, notes that every member of India’s lower house under the age of 30 is a member of a political dynasty. Even within the capitalist elite, support for democracy is fraying: Indian business moguls constantly complain that India’s chaotic democracy produces rotten infrastructure while China’s authoritarian system produces highways, gleaming airports and high-speed trains.
Democracy has been on the back foot before. In the 1920s and 1930s communism and fascism looked like the coming things: when Spain temporarily restored its parliamentary government in 1931, Benito Mussolini likened it to returning to oil lamps in the age of electricity. In the mid-1970s Willy Brandt, a former German chancellor, pronounced that “western Europe has only 20 or 30 more years of democracy left in it; after that it will slide, engineless and rudderless, under the surrounding sea of dictatorship”. Things are not that bad these days, but China poses a far more credible threat than communism ever did to the idea that democracy is inherently superior and will eventually prevail.
Yet China’s stunning advances conceal deeper problems. The elite is becoming a self-perpetuating and self-serving clique. The 50 richest members of the China’s National People’s Congress are collectively worth $94.7 billion—60 times as much as the 50 richest members of America’s Congress. China’s growth rate has slowed from 10% to below 8% and is expected to fall further—an enormous challenge for a regime whose legitimacy depends on its ability to deliver consistent growth.
At the same time, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out in the 19th century, democracies always look weaker than they really are: they are all confusion on the surface but have lots of hidden strengths. Being able to install alternative leaders offering alternative policies makes democracies better than autocracies at finding creative solutions to problems and rising to existential challenges, though they often take a while to zigzag to the right policies. But to succeed, both fledgling and established democracies must ensure they are built on firm foundations.
Getting democracy right
THE most striking thing about the founders of modern democracy such as James Madison and John Stuart Mill is how hard-headed they were. They regarded democracy as a powerful but imperfect mechanism: something that needed to be designed carefully, in order to harness human creativity but also to check human perversity, and then kept in good working order, constantly oiled, adjusted and worked upon.
The need for hard-headedness is particularly pressing when establishing a nascent democracy. One reason why so many democratic experiments have failed recently is that they put too much emphasis on elections and too little on the other essential features of democracy. The power of the state needs to be checked, for instance, and individual rights such as freedom of speech and freedom to organise must be guaranteed. The most successful new democracies have all worked in large part because they avoided the temptation of majoritarianism—the notion that winning an election entitles the majority to do whatever it pleases. India has survived as a democracy since 1947 (apart from a couple of years of emergency rule) and Brazil since the mid-1980s for much the same reason: both put limits on the power of the government and provided guarantees for individual rights.
Robust constitutions not only promote long-term stability, reducing the likelihood that disgruntled minorities will take against the regime. They also bolster the struggle against corruption, the bane of developing countries. Conversely, the first sign that a fledgling democracy is heading for the rocks often comes when elected rulers try to erode constraints on their power—often in the name of majority rule. Mr Morsi tried to pack Egypt’s upper house with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Yanukovych reduced the power of Ukraine’s parliament. Mr Putin has ridden roughshod over Russia’s independent institutions in the name of the people. Several African leaders are engaging in crude majoritarianism—removing term limits on the presidency or expanding penalties against homosexual behaviour, as Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni did on February 24th.
Foreign leaders should be more willing to speak out when rulers engage in such illiberal behaviour, even if a majority supports it. But the people who most need to learn this lesson are the architects of new democracies: they must recognise that robust checks and balances are just as vital to the establishment of a healthy democracy as the right to vote. Paradoxically even potential dictators have a lot to learn from events in Egypt and Ukraine: Mr Morsi would not be spending his life shuttling between prison and a glass box in an Egyptian court, and Mr Yanukovych would not be fleeing for his life, if they had not enraged their compatriots by accumulating so much power.
Even those lucky enough to live in mature democracies need to pay close attention to the architecture of their political systems. The combination of globalisation and the digital revolution has made some of democracy’s most cherished institutions look outdated. Established democracies need to update their own political systems both to address the problems they face at home, and to revitalise democracy’s image abroad. Some countries have already embarked upon this process. America’s Senate has made it harder for senators to filibuster appointments. A few states have introduced open primaries and handed redistricting to independent boundary commissions. Other obvious changes would improve matters. Reform of party financing, so that the names of all donors are made public, might reduce the influence of special interests. The European Parliament could require its MPs to present receipts with their expenses. Italy’s parliament has far too many members who are paid too much, and two equally powerful chambers, which makes it difficult to get anything done.
But reformers need to be much more ambitious. The best way to constrain the power of special interests is to limit the number of goodies that the state can hand out. And the best way to address popular disillusion towards politicians is to reduce the number of promises they can make. The key to a healthier democracy, in short, is a narrower state—an idea that dates back to the American revolution. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men”, Madison argued, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” The notion of limited government was also integral to the relaunch of democracy after the second world war. The United Nations Charter (1945) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) established rights and norms that countries could not breach, even if majorities wanted to do so.
These checks and balances were motivated by fear of tyranny. But today, particularly in the West, the big dangers to democracy are harder to spot. One is the growing size of the state. The relentless expansion of government is reducing liberty and handing ever more power to special interests. The other comes from government’s habit of making promises that it cannot fulfil, either by creating entitlements it cannot pay for or by waging wars that it cannot win, such as that on drugs. Both voters and governments must be persuaded of the merits of accepting restraints on the state’s natural tendency to overreach. Giving control of monetary policy to independent central banks tamed the rampant inflation of the 1980s, for example. It is time to apply the same principle of limited government to a broader range of policies. Mature democracies, just like nascent ones, require appropriate checks and balances on the power of elected government.
Governments can exercise self-restraint in several different ways. They can put on a golden straitjacket by adopting tight fiscal rules—as the Swedes have done by pledging to balance their budget over the economic cycle. They can introduce “sunset clauses” that force politicians to renew laws every ten years, say. They can ask non-partisan commissions to propose long-term reforms. The Swedes rescued their pension system from collapse when an independent commission suggested pragmatic reforms including greater use of private pensions, and linking the retirement age to life-expectancy. Chile has been particularly successful at managing the combination of the volatility of the copper market and populist pressure to spend the surplus in good times. It has introduced strict rules to ensure that it runs a surplus over the economic cycle, and appointed a commission of experts to determine how to cope with economic volatility.
Isn’t this a recipe for weakening democracy by handing more power to the great and the good? Not necessarily. Self-denying rules can strengthen democracy by preventing people from voting for spending policies that produce bankruptcy and social breakdown and by protecting minorities from persecution. But technocracy can certainly be taken too far. Power must be delegated sparingly, in a few big areas such as monetary policy and entitlement reform, and the process must be open and transparent.
And delegation upwards towards grandees and technocrats must be balanced by delegation downwards, handing some decisions to ordinary people. The trick is to harness the twin forces of globalism and localism, rather than trying to ignore or resist them. With the right balance of these two approaches, the same forces that threaten established democracies from above, through globalisation, and below, through the rise of micro-powers, can reinforce rather than undermine democracy.
Tocqueville argued that local democracy frequently represented democracy at its best: “Town-meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within the people’s reach, they teach men how to use and enjoy it.” City mayors regularly get twice the approval ratings of national politicians. Modern technology can implement a modern version of Tocqueville’s town-hall meetings to promote civic involvement and innovation. An online hyperdemocracy where everything is put to an endless series of public votes would play to the hand of special-interest groups. But technocracy and direct democracy can keep each other in check: independent budget commissions can assess the cost and feasibility of local ballot initiatives, for example.
Several places are making progress towards getting this mixture right. The most encouraging example is California. Its system of direct democracy allowed its citizens to vote for contradictory policies, such as higher spending and lower taxes, while closed primaries and gerrymandered districts institutionalised extremism. But over the past five years California has introduced a series of reforms, thanks in part to the efforts of Nicolas Berggruen, a philanthropist and investor. The state has introduced a “Think Long” committee to counteract the short-term tendencies of ballot initiatives. It has introduced open primaries and handed power to redraw boundaries to an independent commission. And it has succeeded in balancing its budget—an achievement which Darrell Steinberg, the leader of the California Senate, described as “almost surreal”.
Similarly, the Finnish government has set up a non-partisan commission to produce proposals for the future of its pension system. At the same time it is trying to harness e-democracy: parliament is obliged to consider any citizens’ initiative that gains 50,000 signatures. But many more such experiments are needed—combining technocracy with direct democracy, and upward and downward delegation—if democracy is to zigzag its way back to health.
John Adams, America’s second president, once pronounced that “democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” He was clearly wrong. Democracy was the great victor of the ideological clashes of the 20th century. But if democracy is to remain as successful in the 21st century as it was in the 20th, it must be both assiduously nurtured when it is young—and carefully maintained when it is mature.