terça-feira, 29 de setembro de 2015
Emigração manteve-se em 2014 no "patamar muito elevado" atingido em 2013
ANA DIAS CORDEIRO 29/09/2015 - PÚBLICO
Observatório da Emigração dá a conhecer pela primeira vez a tendência de 2014. Os valores constam de um relatório entregue ao Governo em Julho, para ser publicado antes das férias parlamentares, como no ano passado. Mas tal não aconteceu.
Ao contrário do que era esperado, a emigração não abrandou e os portugueses continuaram em 2014 a sair de Portugal ao mesmo ritmo que saíram em 2013. Os valores mantiveram-se assim no pico atingido em 2013, de 110 mil saídas, de acordo com dados provisórios do Observatório da Emigração (OEm). Esses valores, apesar de “elevados”, correspondem a uma “estimativa prudente”, abaixo da realidade, diz Rui Pena Pires, coordenador do OEm. As pessoas que deixam Portugal não são apenas pessoas sem emprego. São também pessoas com empregos muito precários, explica o sociólogo.
“Eu estava à espera que os valores começassem a baixar. Toda a gente estava à espera, incluindo o Governo. Não é possível estar sempre a crescer”, diz Rui Pena Pires. E explica: “Quando a situação económica em Portugal estabiliza”, e isso aconteceu em 2014, “é normal” que os números da emigração comecem a baixar. "O que vemos é uma estabilização num patamar muito elevado."
Menos portugueses escolheram o Luxemburgo ou o Brasil como destino de emigração em 2014 e mais pessoas optaram pela Dinamarca, Espanha ou o Reino Unido, quando comparados os valores com os de 2013. As saídas para Angola e Moçambique também cresceram. Nos totais estimados, os valores das saídas para o conjunto dos principais países de destino, mantêm-se, como se lê numa síntese publicada esta terça-feira no site do observatório (www.observatorioemigracao.pt). É o primeiro alerta sobre os dados de 2014. Os números recentemente publicados pela OCDE eram relativos a 2013.
Os dados do OEm são calculados com base nos números dos institutos nacionais de estatística dos 15 principais países de destino, e alguns não estão disponíveis no primeiro semestre (como os da Suíça ou França). Por isso, os totais de 2014 são apresentados como provisórios. Em Dezembro, o OEm vai rever estes dados – já contabilizando os números que entretanto ficaram disponíveis nos principais países, e essa revisão deve ser feita em alta. Nunca aconteceu a revisão resultar em valores mais baixos, diz Rui Pena Pires.
É preciso recuar à década 1960 ou 1970 para se encontrarem valores tão elevados (acima dos 110 mil) durante dois anos consecutivos, acrescenta o professor e investigador Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia, ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE – IUL), que lembra um ano em que os valores atingiram os 150 mil, mas baixaram no ano seguinte.
O que é agora surpreendente é esta persistência da tendência, refere. Tal significa que "não existem, neste momento, sinais de que a situação possa inverter-se”, e que o crescimento da economia não resultou na criação de emprego. “O importante aqui” é a criação de emprego, “e estes números mostram que a criação de emprego não cresceu ao mesmo ritmo a que baixou o desemprego”, enfatiza.
“Vamos ter sempre saídas de pessoas, mas uma coisa é termos 30 mil, 40 mil ou, no máximo, 50 mil. Outra coisa é termos valores acima dos 110 mil", considera. "É um número muito elevado." Representa cerca de 1% da população, tanto em 2013 como em 2014, o primeiro ano completo em que a economia não decresceu em Portugal.
Em 2010, os valores estavam nas 70 mil saídas e, desde então, não têm parado de aumentar, atingindo o pico em 2013. Nesse ano, o Reino Unido tornou-se o principal país de destino da emigração portuguesa.
Em 2014, o número de saídas continuou a aumentar, para o Reino Unido. Os dados estatísticos do Reino Unido mostram um total de 30.546 entradas de portugueses em 2014. E em Espanha, outro destino importante, o fluxo de entradas aumentou de 5302 (2013) para 5923 (2014). Em Angola, os números estão abaixo da realidade, diz Rui Pena Pires. Em 2014, foram registadas 5098 entradas de portugueses quando em 2013 tinham sido 4651. E em Moçambique, o número passou de 3759 para 3971. A uma outra escala, na Dinamarca, o número de entradas de portugueses passou de 443 para 637. Os números mais recentes relativos a França são de 2012, quando entraram 18 mil portugueses, o dobro dos 9 mil que o OEm tinha previsto.
As saídas de pessoas contribuem para baixar a taxa do desemprego em Portugal, confirma Rui Pena Pires. “Em parte, sim”, diz. Mas entre os emigrantes não há apenas pessoas desempregadas, há pessoas com empregos muito precários. E este é um dos problemas que podem estar na origem” deste fluxo. “A maioria dos empregos criados tem uma componente muito grande de precariedade.”
O relatório do OEm, com uma análise mais detalhada e uma interpretação dos dados, está concluído desde Julho, e foi entregue ao secretário de Estado das Comunidades, José Cesário, para publicação. O documento é da responsabilidade dos investigadores do CIES, mas publicado pelo Governo, que financia através da Direcção-Geral dos Assuntos Consulares e das Comunidades Portuguesas (DGACCP) do Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros.Este ano, a publicação esteve prevista para Julho (como tinha acontecido no ano passado), e depois para meados de Setembro, diz Rui Pena Pires. Mas até agora ainda não aconteceu.
“O observatório entregou o seu relatório em Julho para que pudesse ser apresentado aos deputados na Assembleia antes das férias parlamentares, como aconteceu em 2013”, diz Rui Pena Pires. O PÚBLICO tentou saber junto do gabinete do Secretário de Estado das Comunidades, José Cesário, por que motivos o relatório não tinha ainda sido publicado, e quando o seria, mas não obteve resposta até ao final do dia.
Japan says it must look after its own before allowing Syrian refugees in
Prime minister Shinzo Abe rejects criticism of a policy that has seen only 11 people given asylum in the past year
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Wednesday 30 September 2015 05.59 BST
Japan must improve the living standards of its own people before it can consider accepting Syrian refugees, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe said, as he announced $1.6 billion in new assistance for Syrians and Iraqis caught up in conflicts in the Middle East.
Japan takes no Syrian refugees yet despite giving $200m to help fight Isis
Abe’s consistent refusal to consider allowing even a modest number of refugees to relocate to Japan has prompted criticism of the country’s strict policy on asylum: last year it received a record 5,000 applications but accepted just 11 people.
Speaking at the UN general assembly in New York, Abe insisted Japan must first tackle crises posed by its falling birth rate and an ageing population, and continue its push to boost the number of women in the labour market.
“It is an issue of demography,” Abe told reporters after his speech to the UN general assembly. “I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”
Abe added Japan, which is pushing for a permanent seat on the UN security council, would “discharge our own responsibility” in addressing the causes of the refugee crisis.
“Japan would like to contribute by changing the conditions that give rise to refugees. The cause of this tragedy is the fear of violence and terrorism, and terror of poverty. The world must cooperate in order for them to find a way to escape poverty.”
Japan’s latest aid package includes $810m for refugees and internally displaced people fleeing fighting in Syria and Iraq – three times the amount it provided last year – and $750m to fund peace-building efforts in the Middle East and Africa.
Human rights groups have highlighted the fact Japan and other high-income countries such as Russia, Singapore and South Korea, have failed to help relieve the pressure on countries in the Middle East and Europe, as they struggle to cope with the influx of people caught up in the world’s worst refugee crisis since the second word war.
Japan, however, has pointed to its record on providing aid to refugees: last year it contributed $181.6m to the UN refugee agency, second only to the US.
But it has not matched its financial largesse with pledged to accommodate Syrian and other refugees.
Of 60 Syrians already living in Japan who applied for refugee status, three have been successful and another 30 or so have been given permission to stay long-term for humanitarian reasons, according to the Japan association for refugees.
While he did not mention any country by name, the EU council president, Donald Tusk, appeared to round on the “hypocrisy” of Gulf states criticising European nations for not taking in enough refugees, while refusing to accept any themselves.
“Many countries represented here deal with this problem in a much simpler way; namely by not allowing migrants and refugees to enter their territories at all,” Tusk said in New York.
Saudi Arabia says there is 'no future' for Assad in Syria
Foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir says there are no circumstances where Bashar al-Assad can remain in power – whether that exit is through politics or by force
Julian Borger in New York
Wednesday 30 September 2015 00.13 BST
Saudi Arabia has called on Bashar al-Assad to give up power or be removed by force, raising the global stakes at a time when the Russians are shipping troops and military hardware to Syria in an effort to prop up its beleaguered leader.
The threat was made on Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir.
“There is no future for Assad in Syria,” Jubeir told journalists at the UN general assembly. “There are two options for a settlement in Syria. One option is a political process where there would be a transitional council. The other option is a military option, which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power.”
“This could be a more lengthy process and a more destructive process but the choice is entirely that of Bashar al-Assad.” The foreign minister did not specify how Assad would be forcibly removed, but pointed out that Saudi Arabia is already backing “moderate rebels” in the civil war.
The Saudi intervention fuelled an already heated row at the UN over Syria’s future, where the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, issued a forthright defence of the Syrian regime, describing it as fighting a lonely and “valiant” battle against Islamic State extremists.
Putin has redoubled his support for Assad by a significant and growing military deployment in Syria. US officials said on Tuesday that four advanced aircraft, Sukhoi Su-34 “Fullback” fighters had arrived at Latakia air base in western Syria, bringing the total number of Russian planes stationed there to over 30.
The planes are ostensibly there to attack Isis, but have yet to fly any combat missions, western officials say. Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, derided Russian claims to be leading the anti-terrorist campaign in Syria, as “media strikes rather than real strikes”.
“The fight against Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Isis] is an absolute necessity but it must not be just a fight only through the media. It must be a real one,” he said. “And when I’m looking at who is really committed in the fight of Daesh … as far as Bashar al-Assad is concerned, it’s still recent and it’s still modest. So as far as our Russian partners are concerned, up to now they didn’t yet [do anything] against Daesh.”
By contrast, Fabius said: “We the French this week struck against a Daesh camp. We have to judge realities and not mass media.”
Obama tells Pentagon to open channel of communication with Russia on Syria
The US has also carried out airstrikes against Isis inside Syria, and following an Obama-Putin summit on Monday – which US officials said brought greater clarity on Russian intentions – the US defence secretary, Ash Carter, issued instructions on Tuesday for communications channels to be opened with the Russian military to avoid the chance of collision on exchange of fire in Syrian airspace.
The US meanwhile sought other means to contain Isis. As Barack Obama opened the anti-Isis summit on Tuesday, the US government announced sanctions against 25 people and five groups connected to Isis in moves it said were aimed at hitting the activities of financial, logistical and recruiting operatives.
Opening the summit, Obama said: “This is not going to be turned around overnight … There are going to be successes and there are going to be setbacks. This is not a conventional battle. This is a long-term campaign – not only against this particular network, but against its ideology.
“But, ultimately, I am optimistic. In Iraq and in Syria, Isil [another acronym for the Islamic State] is surrounded by communities, countries and a broad international coalition committed to its destruction,” he said. “Like terrorists and tyrants throughout history, Isil will eventually lose because it has nothing to offer but suffering and death.”
Putin says he can work with Obama despite trading barbs on Syria and Isis
Reiterating his position that Assad cannot stay, Obama said: “In Syria, defeating Isil requires a new leader and an inclusive government that unites the Syrian people in the fight against terrorist groups. This is going to be a complex process. And as I’ve said before, we are prepared to work with all countries, including Russia and Iran, to find a political mechanism in which it is possible to begin a transition process.”
Fabius also argued it made no moral or practical sense for Assad to remain if the goal was to rebuild a new, free and united Syria.
“How can you imagine that the Syrian refugees – 80% of whom fled Syria because they were under threat from Assad – how can you imagine that they go back to Syria if we tell them that the future of Syria is Bashar al-Assad?” Fabius asked. He said a political transition mechanism had to be negotiated, but was not specific about timing.
Meanwhile, he said that France had revived the idea of the creation and enforcement of “safe zones” inside Syria where civilians would be protected both from the regime and Isis.
“It could be an idea to have within Syria one or two or three … safe zones, security zones, in order that these zones will be able to welcome Syrian people without forcing them to go out of the country. We are working on that,” Fabius said, again without offering details on how such zones could be achieved.
Russia continues to promote a separate negotiating effort, seeking to recruit countries to its view of Syria and the need for Assad to remain. The foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is chairing a ministerial meeting to that end on Wednesday. French officials said that Fabius would attend.
Battle royale over top ‘Juncker Plan’ posts
Shouting matches, rogue hearings and finger-pointing cloud the appointment process.
By QUENTIN ARIÈS AND JAMES PANICHI 9/30/15, 5:30 AM CET
A behind-the-scenes fight in the European Parliament over the appointment of top managers for a €315 billion EU investment plan has MEPs accusing each other of national stereotyping as they attempt to muscle in on the Commission’s role in filling the jobs.
The power struggle descended into a shouting match last week at an informal, closed-door hearing of candidates for the second most-powerful position in the new European Fund for Strategic Investments. The hearing itself was already controversial, as the European Parliament has no role in the appointment process other than ratifying the choice made by the Commission.
Italian MEP Roberto Gualtieri, chairman of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, clashed with prominent panel member Sylvie Goulard, a French MEP. Goulard objected to the way the meetings were run and was concerned that the committee was trying to shoe-horn an Italian bureaucrat into the role of the fund’s deputy managing director.
The informal vetting process for the new fund’s top jobs has left the economic panel deeply divided, frayed its relationship with senior members of the Budgets Committee and antagonized the Commission, which had not agreed to the Parliament’s expanded role. And the relationship between two prominent MEPs has “totally collapsed” as a result of the hearings, according to one official familiar with the process.
The investment fund was a key campaign promise of Jean-Claude Juncker in the 2014 election for the Commission presidency, and his executive’s political credibility is linked to the program’s success. The dispute shows how the nascent fund is still vulnerable to national interests competing for a slice of a huge spending pie. It also highlights Parliament’s ongoing efforts to exert more influence.
The European Fund for Strategic Investments, known as the “Juncker Plan,” will raise €315 billion over three years to support investment and help kick-start stalled EU economies. The EU budget will contribute €16 billion to the fund, with €5 billion coming from the European Investment Bank.
‘Underhanded Italian maneuver’
Italians have weighed into the job-selection melee, arguing that opponents of the candidacy of European Investment Bank official Alessandro Carano for the new post were relying on stereotypes suggesting an Italian could not be trusted with managing a large investment fund.
“They have been trying to portray this as some kind of underhanded Italian maneuver, as though being an Italian should rule him out,” said an MEP who was present at the informal hearing.
When contacted by POLITICO, Carano said he was simply a civil servant who had applied for a job and had been interviewed by both the European Investment Bank and the Commission. “I have no links with either national governments or political parties,” he said.
Key appointments to the fund’s management structure are being hotly contested among EU countries, and observers in Parliament say the center-left Italian government, which is hoping to use the fund to support key infrastructure development, is determined to see an Italian national in a top role.
To manage the hiring process, the Commission announced in January that it would ask the European Investment Bank (EIB) to develop a shortlist of candidates to help a “steering board” select the right person for both the roles of managing director and deputy managing director. The board is made up of three officials from the Commission and one from the bank.
The only role Parliament was given in the process was the right to hold a confirmation hearing of the selected candidate, which will take place on October 6. The Commission said it is following the appointment procedures and it will inform Parliament of its choice of candidate ahead of the hearing.
But Gualtieri decided to launch his own informal vetting process of the EIB shortlist, which his office referred to as “pre-hearings.” Sources familiar with the process, which took place in Gualtieri’s office on September 22, say they were an attempt to identify a suitable candidate and then put pressure on the Commission to accept Parliament’s choice.
Gualtieri contacted the Budgets Committee chairman, Jean Arthuis, a French member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, to inform him of the informal hearings. But according to members of that panel, Arthuis declined to take part and instructed his committee members to steer clear of the process, fearing it lacked a legal basis.
While the shortlist has not been finalized, MEPs have confirmed that Wilhelm Molterer, a former Austrian center-right finance minister who is now on the EIB’s management committee, was top of the list and his candidacy for the role of managing-director was not contested.
Also on the list were Carano, an EIB official who had been seconded to the Commission to help set up the Juncker Plan, and two female candidates — a Spaniard and a Bulgarian.
Gualtieri declined to respond to claims he had clashed with Goulard, but defended the process. “The European Parliament has clear prerogatives in this area,” he said, “and we are determined to ensure that merit and the quality of the candidate prevail over any attempt of politicization.”
Goulard also declined to discuss the argument, but said it was “not a matter of people, but a matter of principle.” She said that fund’s money should “go to good projects which are not based on what passport those backing the project hold.” Goulard also said she was keen to see Parliament support gender balance in such appointments.
One MEP who attended the informal hearing said the Bulgarian candidate, who took part via video-conference, made a strong presentation but was widely seen as the Commission’s preferred candidate for the deputy managing director role, with Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva backing the woman, described as a former Bulgarian junior minister. Georgieva’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Other MEPs who attended the informal hearing said there was broad, cross-party consensus that Carano was the strongest of the candidates.
Fabio de Masi, a German MEP from the left-wing European United Left/Nordic Green Left grouping, said that unlike other applicants, Carano spoke frankly about problems which had been identified and how he would address them. “For me, it was purely a decision based on [Carano] being the one most willing to address the concerns of Parliament,” de Masi said.
De Masi said he has never supported the Juncker Plan and, while being of Italian descent, he opposed the Italian government of Matteo Renzi and had little in common with the Italian center-left in the European Parliament — which includes Gualtieri. However, he said Carano was both “knowledgeable and determined that it should not be business as usual” and he clearly won over the MEPs who heard him speak.
But MEP Marco Zanni, from Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, said the quality of the candidate was not the issue. “Even if the Italian turns out to be the best, what Gualtieri has done goes against conventions and certainly against the rules,” said Valli, who is a member of both the the economic committee and the budgets committee.
“I received an invitation to attend [the informal hearing] but I declined it,” Zanni said. “I will have no problem in attending the official hearing. But this unofficial meeting held in Gualtieri’s office — this goes against the way Parliament should work.”
“The shortlist must be officially communicated to Parliament,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, that has not happened yet.”
Quentin Ariès and James Panichi
Putin and Obama disagree on Syria? Think again
Behind closed doors, Obama and Putin are closer on dealing with Assad than they have been in years.
By MICHAEL HIRSH 9/30/15, 7:27 AM CET Updated 9/30/15, 7:40 AM CET
The bad blood between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin and their so-called dueling speeches at the United Nations on Monday masks a deeper reality: The two presidents are today in more alignment than they have been in years on what to do about Syria. As a result, some sources suggest that despite the tough rhetoric on the surface between the two countries, there’s a much higher likelihood of an accommodation with Moscow — an accommodation that will prolong Bashar al-Assad’s regime and place the U.S. and Russia on the same side against the so-called Islamic State (ISIL).
Secretary of State John Kerry has scheduled several meetings on Syria in New York this week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; the third is set for Wednesday. Kerry also sat down with Assad’s other biggest ally, Iran — specifically with Javad Zarif, Iran’s American-educated foreign minister, with whom Kerry has grown much closer to in the course of the Iran nuclear deal. (Zarif, for his part, made history by shaking Obama’s hand in New York.) In a TV interview, Kerry sketched out how “in exchange perhaps for something that we might do,” he had discussed with his Russian and Iranian counterparts putting pressure on Assad to keep him from dropping barrel bombs.
Meanwhile, President Obama himself met with Putin for a longer-than-expected 90 minutes and, in his own U.N. speech, edged back from his previous strident calls for Assad to step down, saying that “realism dictates that compromise is required,” and that this should mean “a managed transition” rather than Assad’s immediate departure.
What “realism” is Obama referring to? The European nations, which were largely behind Obama in demanding Assad’s ouster a year ago, are beset with a nightmarish Syrian refugee crisis. Absent any other credible opposition to ISIL in Syria, it’s a crisis that would only grow far worse if Assad were toppled any time soon. Obama, heading into his final year in office, is facing a growing consensus that his failure to do more to contain Syria’s horrific civil war could be the single-biggest blot on his foreign-policy record. Even his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, criticized him over it this week. Under pressure, the administration is casting about frenziedly for a new approach. Now, in view of Putin’s fait accompli of sending military aid to Assad, it may finally yield to the inevitable.
A senior State Department official told POLITICO Tuesday night that Kerry had called a meeting of the major European allies and the Saudis, as well as Qatr and the United Arab Emirates, to forge a united front before the secretary of state’s meeting with Lavrov on Wednesday. The official said that the United States was trying to find a way of cooperating with the Russians against the Islamic State, including the use of “kinetic operations,” without working with Assad. The official said that the administration believes that the rebel coalition is still providing the main military opposition to the Islamic State. While Washingotn is still standing firm that Assad must go, “what the political transition looks like and feels like is very much in question right now,” the official said.
U.S. officials this week notably backed away from opportunities to condemn the stepped-up Russian military intervention in Syria. In his meeting with Putin, Obama “made clear that we do not have — we are not opposed to Russia playing a constructive role in the fight against ISIL,” a senior administration official said in a telephone conference with reporters on Monday. “We just want to make sure that, number one, we are de-conflicting any activities within Syria, and number two, we are working in tandem to address the political reality that is fueling the conflict.”
“I think an accommodation is possible,” says Atlantic Council director Frederic Hof, who formerly served as the administration’s special adviser for transition in Syria. “If people take a look at what’s already been agreed by the [UN] P5, in terms of the Geneva Final Communique, the formula’s there.”
The most tragic irony of the new geopolitical landscape is that the U.S. and Russia appear headed towards the same position on Assad where they were three years and more than 150,000 lost lives ago — and before the real rise of ISIL — when that communique was signed in Geneva and opened the door to peace negotiations that never took off. “We could have done this a long time ago,” says Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma who is sometimes consulted by the administration.
Three years ago, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was a special UN envoy to Syria who managed to get both Lavrov and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to sign the communique, which called for a political “transition” in Syria. Afterward, Annan flew to Moscow and gained what he believed to be Putin’s consent to begin to quietly push Assad out. But suddenly both the U.S. and Britain issued public calls for Assad’s ouster; Annan felt blindsided. Immediately afterward, against his advice, then-UN Ambassador (now national security advisor) Susan Rice offered up a “Chapter 7” resolution opening the door to force against Assad, an effort that Annan felt was premature. Annan resigned from his post a month later, privately blaming the Obama administration for succumbing to fears of political attacks from Mitt Romney and other Republicans during the 2012 presidential season. “He quit in frustration,” explains one former close Annan aide. “I think it was clear that the White House was very worried about seeming to do a deal with the Russians and being soft on Putin during the campaign.”
Landis had advised — long before such views became conventional wisdom — that Assad had greater staying power than U.S. officials were saying back in 2012. But, he says, “the price was too high a long time ago, because Syria was not important. The French, the British, the Americans — everybody was a coward. They hung the Syrian people out to dry because it was too expensive domestically to make a deal with Assad.”
Hof, who was part of the negotiating effort in 2012, agrees that the negotiations then could have been better handled then and the harsh demand that “Assad must go” voiced by Clinton and others was perhaps “gratuitous” considering the need to compromise. Still, he says it’s far too simplistic to suggest that Russia would have genuinely backed Assad’s eventual departure then — and it’s less likely now, as Putin declares frankly that only autocrats like Assad can save the Middle East from total radicalization. By the same token, even if Obama steps away from his calls for Assad’s ouster, it remains politically difficult for him to deploy real force to help Putin’s military effort in Syria. Launching air strikes in the newly ISIL-held city of Palmyra, for example, will leave Obama open to accusations that he’s become Assad’s air force.
Beyond that, the political risk for Obama and the Democrats is that they are seen welcoming the ostracized Putin back into the diplomatic fold — as they’ve already done partially over the Iran nuclear deal — even as he continues his partial occupation of Ukraine and declares openly that he’s parting ways with the West on the basic issue of democracy.
In his U.N. speech — in stark contrast to Obama’s calls for democracy in his remarks earlier in the day — Putin all but openly embraced autocracy as a better form of government, at least in the Middle East, saying that thanks to the West’s previous interference in the region , “instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster.” Putin also took a shot at the American Exceptionalist belief in the power of freedom and democracy, taunting: “I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you’ve done? But I am afraid no one is going to answer that. Indeed, policies based on self-conceit and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.”
Nonetheless, Kerry appears to be pushing the new diplomatic effort with Moscow hard, saying the United States and Russia agree on “some fundamental principles” for Syria: “that Syria should be a unified country, united, that it needs to be secular, that ISIL needs to be taken on, and that there needs to be a managed transition,” Kerry told MSNBC.
Kerry himself, in fact, is among the slew of former and current administration officials who have criticized the president on this more than any other issue. In 2013 he told a conference that the administration was “late” in helping the once mostly secular rebels against Assad, just as Hillary Clinton, now running for president, reminded viewers this week that she’d advised more robust training, along with former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey.
Kerry also told Congress that “one of the reasons Assad has been using [chemical weapons] is because they have, up until now, made the calculation that the West writ large and the United States particularly are not going to do anything about it.”
But now the calculations have changed for the West writ large. Landis argues that ever since millions of refugees broadsided Europe, turning the Syrian war into a domestic crisis for government after government across the continent, its leaders have backed down from their earlier hard-line stances. “Now all the Europeans are climbing down from ‘Assad has to go’ to ‘Assad’s got to go after the crisis is over,’” he says. “There’s no alternative but to make that kind of compromise.”
It was only two years ago that Kerry and Lavrov worked closely together to resolve the last major Syrian spillover. In the summer of 2013, when evidence mounted that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, Kerry condemned Assad as a “thug and a murderer” who faced imminent U.S. retaliation, only to find that an equivocating Obama was undercutting and kicking the decision over to Congress. With help from Lavrov, Kerry negotiated a deal with Assad that compelled the Syrian dictator to surrender his chemical weapons.
Today the United States — whether indirectly or not, and whether it is officially admitting it or not — is working with Assad once again.
Corbyn afirma o seu patriotismo e anuncia luta cerrada à austeridade
Novo líder trabalhista promete liderança inclusiva mas sublinha que a sua eleição foi um voto pela mudança
O Reino Unido, disse o líder trabalhista, “assenta no jogo limpo para todos e na solidariedade”
Ana Fonseca Pereira / PÚBLICO / 30-9-2015
Acusado pelos conservadores de ser “uma ameaça à segurança nacional” do Reino Unido, denunciado nos tablóides por não ter cantado o hino, criticado dentro e fora do partido pelo regresso ao discurso ideológico dos anos 1980, o novo líder trabalhista aproveitou a sua primeira grande intervenção política para garantir que os valores pelos quais se bate são os mesmos em que assenta a sociedade britânica.
Duas semanas depois do “terramoto político” que constitui a sua eleição, o Labour não está pacificado, mas o congresso anual do partido decorre num clima longe da guerra civil que os mais críticos da nova liderança anteciparam. Jeremy Corbyn não convenceu os congressistas a debater o futuro do arsenal nuclear do país (que ele quer abolir) e o seu governo-sombra está dividido sobre a participação britânica nos ataques aéreos contra o Estado Islâmico na Síria. Mas os herdeiros do New Labour têm sido moderados nos ataques, talvez seguindo as instruções de Peter Mandelson, ex-ministro e aliado de Tony Blair, que os aconselhou a esperarem pelos maus resultados do partido nas urnas.
Corbyn, à imagem do primeiro debate no Parlamento após a eleição, opta por ignorar as quezílias e o que diz ser a velha maneira de fazer política. “Não vou impor a minha visão. Não acredito que alguém tenha o monopólio da sabedoria”, disse no seu discurso aos congressistas, em que defendeu uma política “mais gentil e inclusiva”, com programas trabalhados a partir das bases.
Aos mais distraídos, porém, recordou que foi eleito com 59% dos votos frente a outros três candidatos. “Foi um voto pela mudança” e não apenas na forma de fazer política. “Deixem-me ser claro, sob a minha liderança o Labour vai desafiar a austeridade”, assegurou, criticando os cortes nos benefícios sociais às famílias e os planos do Governo para reduzir os impostos aos mais ricos. “Os conservadores dizem que a segurança da economia e das famílias está em risco connosco (...), mas onde está a segurança para as famílias que não conseguem pagar uma casa, para os que têm dificuldades em cuidar dos idosos ou para os jovens afastados do mercado de trabalho?”
A intervenção, perante uma sala a abarrotar mas sem os artifícios que se tornaram habituais nos congressos, foi parca em propostas concretas. Corbyn quis sobretudo mostrar que, ao contrário do que afirma o Governo e os seus opositores,” as pessoas não têm nada a temer com ele”, explicou à BBC Lucy Powell, porta-voz dos trabalhistas. O Reino Unido, disse o líder trabalhista, “assenta no jogo limpo para todos, na solidariedade, no [princípio] de que não se passa para o outro lado do passeio quando há alguém com problemas”. “Estes valores comuns britânicos são a razão fundamental pela qual amo este país e a sua gente. Foi com base nestes valores que fui eleito”, sublinhou.
Minutos antes do discurso, numa entrevista à televisão norte-americana CBS, o primeiro-ministro, David Cameron, disse que o principal partido da oposição “está a retirar-se para as montanhas” e, logo a seguir, os tories acusaram Corbyn de insistir em políticas despesistas que “iriam destruir a economia”. Alguns comentadores notaram que houve poucas referências a questões como a imigração, a Europa ou o serviço nacional de saúde, que estão entre as prioridades para os eleitores. Mas os seus apoiantes mostraram-se entusiasmados. “Ele mostrou-nos que a política pode ser diferente. A sua visão de uma sociedade mais gentil e humana vai apelar às muitas pessoas que se sentem ignoradas por Westminster”, disse à BBC o secretário- geral da Unison, a segunda maior central sindical britânica.
Preocupados, moradores e CDS exigem debate sobre obras previstas para o Saldanha e Picoas
JOÃO PEDRO PINCHA /29/9/2015, OBSERVADOR
Ninguém os informou sobre nada do que está previsto para a zona, queixam-se os moradores, que pedem a suspensão do projeto. Vereador centrista acusa Fernando Medina de apenas querer deixar obra.
Os moradores das Avenidas Novas e da zona de Entrecampos, em Lisboa, queixam-se de não terem sido ouvidos relativamente à intenção da autarquia de fazer obras profundas no chamado “eixo central da cidade”, nomeadamente em Picoas, no Saldanha e nas avenidas Fontes Pereira de Melo e da República. Os habitantes dizem ter sido apanhados de surpresa e exigem um debate público mais alargado, no que são apoiados pelo vereador do CDS, João Gonçalves Pereira.
Segundo a proposta aprovada no início de setembro, a face de Picoas e da Praça Duque de Saldanha deverá ser radicalmente alterada com a eliminação de faixas de rodagem e de lugares de estacionamento que serão ocupados por passeios mais largos, árvores, ciclovias e esplanadas. Também na Fontes Pereira de Melo e na Av. da República (até ao cruzamento com a Elias Garcia) estão previstas intervenções que preocupam as pessoas que ali vivem.
“Desconhecendo os efeitos, as causas e as consequências desta intenção, e cientes de todos os riscos e prejuízos desta intervenção, os moradores e comerciantes das zonas afetadas exigem a suspensão do processo até que possam ser ouvidos e dar o seu contributo”, lê-se num comunicado escrito pelas associações de moradores das Avenidas Novas e da Praça de Entrecampos depois de uma reunião que tiveram na segunda-feira à noite.
O vereador do CDS na câmara de Lisboa esteve presente na reunião e diz partilhar da ” enorme preocupação” das pessoas, especialmente no que diz respeito à “questão do estacionamento”. João Gonçalves Pereira afirma que o vereador do Urbanismo, Manuel Salgado, lhe garantiu que se perderiam 140 lugares de parqueamento com as obras, mas queixa-se de que as perguntas que dirigiu à câmara sobre o tema no início do mês ainda não tenham tido resposta.
“Estamos a falar de uma obra que não afeta só as freguesias de Avenidas Novas e de Arroios”, salienta o centrista, que lembra que a zona em causa fica “no coração da cidade de Lisboa, onde milhares de pessoas circulam, milhares de pessoas trabalham e milhares de pessoas vivem.” Por isso, defende que não se pode decidir sobre o assunto de ânimo leve:
“Toda a população de Lisboa se devia interessar por isto. Isto deveria obrigar a um amplo debate”, explica João Gonçalves Pereira ao Observador, sugerindo que “propostas e projetos que vêm de trás” — como a ideia de Santana Lopes de criar um túnel no Saldanha — sejam também considerados para a discussão.
Não haver debate nenhum, afirma, é que não pode ser. “Isto é uma democracia, não é uma tirania. O dr. Fernando Medina não é o dono da cidade”, atira, acusando o presidente da câmara de apenas querer cumprir “um mero calendário eleitoral”, para “chegar a 2017 com obra feita”. Numa entrevista ao Expresso aquando a discussão destas obras em reunião de câmara, Medina garantiu que “a generalidade dos projetos [do programa Uma Praça em Cada Bairro, no qual este se insere] avança e ficará concluída dentro deste mandato”. O vereador centrista está, porém, empenhado em impedi-lo. “O CDS utilizará todos os meios políticos e democráticos que estiverem ao seu alcance para travar este processo”, afiançou.
O tema deverá ser um dos pontos quentes da reunião pública da Câmara Municipal de Lisboa esta quarta-feira. Já as associações de moradores marcaram uma nova reunião, desta vez com a presença de Manuel Salgado, para a próxima terça-feira, 6 de outubro.
segunda-feira, 28 de setembro de 2015
United Nations: Putin says he can work with Obama despite trading barbs on Syria and Isis
Russian leader more conciliatory after speeches in which he applauds Assad regime while Barack Obama condemns ‘might makes right’ doctrine
Monday 28 September 2015 22.30 BST Last modified on Tuesday 29 September 2015 03.27 BST
Vladimir Putin emerged from a rare face-to-face meeting with Barack Obama on Monday night, saying Russia and the US could find a way to work together on Syria, despite deep differences over the country’s leadership.
The US-Russian summit lasted 94 minutes, more than half an hour longer than planned, on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly where the two leaders had traded barbs only hours before, particularly over the future of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking to Russian journalists after the meeting, Putin said the two had found at least some common ground on the four-year conflict.
The Russian leader described the conversation with Obama as “very constructive, businesslike and very frank”.
“We had some points in common, and we had differences,” Putin said, according to a translation by the Russia Today satellite channel. “I think there is still a way we can work together on the problems we all face.”
He rejected calls earlier in the day from Obama and the French president, Francois Hollande, for Assad to stand down as part of a concerted campaign against Islamic State and other violent extremists.
“I respect my colleagues, the US president and the French president, but I don’t think they are Syrian citizens, so I don’t think they should be deciding on who should lead Syria,” he said.
However, Putin showed more flexibility than he had in his general assembly speech, acknowledging that political reform in Damascus could be part of a solution, but indicated that Assad would be a willing participant in that change.
“There can be simultaneous, political change, but President Assad has already said he agrees with that,” Putin said.
A senior US administration official later said the meeting between the two presidents had been “business-like” and “focused”.
“This was not a situation where either one of them was seeking to score points in a meeting,” the official said. “I think there was a shared desire to figure out a way in which we can address the situation in Syria.
“We have clarity on their objectives. Their objectives are to go after Isil and to support the government.”
Earlier in the day, Obama and Putin had clashed in an exchange of blunt rhetoric as they vied for global leadership on Syria and the fight against Isis.
Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Barack Obama shake hands for the cameras before the start of a bilateral meeting at the United Nations. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
It was a verbal duel that was reminiscent of some of the tensest episodes of the cold war.
In a throwback to that era, the Russian president, making his first appearance at the general assembly for a decade, was not in the chamber during Obama’s address. He was shown on Russian television walking down the steps of his official plane just as Obama began his address. He arrived at the UN headquarters in midtown Manhattan just after the US president had left the podium.
Likewise, when Putin was speaking, the US presence was reduced to relatively junior officials. And Ukrainian officials walked out during the Russian address.
The most contentious and divisive issue of all was over the continuing slaughter in Syria, the rise of Isis and the mass exodus of refugees from the conflict. And at the core of the US-Russian power struggle was the fate of Bashar al-Assad and whether he is the root of the problem or part of the solution.
It is a fundamental difference that has prevented concerted international action on Syria for the entirety of the four-year war, which has cost the lives of over 250,000 Syrians and driven more than 11 million from their homes. On Monday, against the green marble backdrop of the general assembly podium, the rift appeared as debilitating as ever.
Obama was first of the leaders to speak. He assailed states who gave in to the temptation of a “might makes right” philosophy.
Obama and Putin toast during a luncheon hosted by United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Photograph: Rex Shutterstock
“In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent civilians because the alternative is surely worse,” Obama said in remarks clearly aimed primarily at Putin, who has repeatedly insisted that defeat of Isis can only be achieved by support of the “legitimate government” of Syria.
The US president indicated that he was ready to talk with everyone, including Russia and Iran, in seeking common ground on the issue, but equally clearly laid out US red lines, the most important of which was transition away from Assad.
“Yes, realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out Isil. But realism also requires a managed transition away from Assad and to a new leader, and an inclusive government that recognises there must be an end to this chaos so that the Syrian people can begin to rebuild,” he said.
Obama’s address was also an ode to the twin virtues of democracy and diplomacy, interwoven with admissions of when the US had fallen short of those ideals, in the invasion of Iraq, and the xenophobia that has risen to the surface in the nation’s current political discourse.
Putin’s address was different in tone. While Obama had repeatedly paused for dramatic effect, the Russian leader galloped through his lines. The American president talked optimistically about the common aspirations that united all peoples; Putin struck darker, conspiratorial notes.
He noted how Isis had drawn its strength from former Iraqi servicemen made jobless by the US-led invasion in 2003 and then by the western bombing of Libya that led to the destruction of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli. He suggested that the religious extremists were sent deliberately into Syria by unnamed powers to destroy the secular, anti-western government in Damascus.
In his speech Putin showed no sign of willingness to compromise on Assad’s fate, not even conceding that Damascus might be ripe for “reform” after Isis was defeated – a more conciliatory formula put forward by the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. Instead, he increased his praise for the regime, which he said was “fighting valiantly against terror face to face in Syria”. Furthermore, he said, the Syrian forces had been struggling almost alone up till now.
Putin not only presented a rival narrative for the Syrian conflict – he also offered an alternative mechanism for dealing for it. The Russian leader will have left New York by the time Obama chairs a summit on combating Isis and violent extremism on Tuesday. Putin did not mention it. Instead, he called on UN member states to take part in a ministerial meeting convened by Russia in its current role as president of the UN security council, which would lead to a new UN resolution on combating Isis, presumably built around support for the Damascus regime.
On the evidence of the opening morning of a week’s worth of speeches at the general assembly, Putin had gathered some momentum. In her brief remarks on Syria, the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, blamed only Isis and “associated groups” for the violence. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, did not mention Syria by name but stressed the importance of respect for national security as a pillar of the UN charter.
However, the French president, Francois Hollande, stuck to Paris’s position that Assad could have no part in a postwar Syria.
“Bashar al-Assad is the source of the problem. He cannot be part of the solution,” Hollande says. “Just because a terrorist group also carries out massacres doesn’t mean that pardons or amnesties the regime which created this situation...You can’t make the victims and the executioner work together.”
Artur Mas na corda bamba / Rajoy perdeu, Mas não ganhou e o Cidadãos afirma-se como alternativa / JORGE ALMEIDA FERNANDES
Rajoy perdeu, Mas não ganhou e o Cidadãos afirma-se como alternativa
JORGE ALMEIDA FERNANDES 28/09/2015 - PÚBLICO
As eleições-plebiscito permitem duas leituras conforme se olhe o número de deputados ou de votos. A independência não pode assentar num voto minoritário
A primeira leitura dos resultados das eleições catalães de domingo mostra que a Catalunha é uma sociedade fracturada, partida em duas comunidades quase equivalentes. O soberanismo está solidamente implantado mas ainda longe de constituir uma maioria indiscutível. Na expressão do jornalista Lluís Bassets, “a força do secessionismo é enorme mas a independência não está mais próxima”. Há dois derrotados: Artur Mas, presidente da Generalitat (governo autonómico), e Mariano Rajoy, presidente do Governo e líder do Partido Popular. O segundo acto do drama joga-se nas eleições espanholas previstas para Dezembro.
Sendo formalmente umas eleições legislativas autonómicas, foram transformadas num “plebiscito” sobre a independência, o que permite a dupla leitura dos resultados. Se olharmos o número de deputados, o conjunto das duas formações independentistas venceu com maioria absoluta, somando 72 mandatos (em 135 deputados). Se as lermos em termos de “plebiscito” sobre a secessão, o desfecho indica um desaire de Mas e dos separatistas, cujo total de votos, 47,7%, ficou abaixo dos sufrágios anti-independência que somaram 50,6.
A leitura em termos plebiscitários foi imposta por Mas e pela aliança Juntos pelo Sim. “Estas eleições serão lidas como um plebiscito”, reafirmou Mas no próprio dia do voto. Também António Baños, cabeça de lista da Candidatura de Unidade Popular (CUP, independentista e anticapitalista), acrescentou que eram necessários “pelo menos 50%, porque estas eleições são um plebiscito”.
O carácter plebiscitário das eleições visava legitimar a aceleração do processo de independência e tornar possível lançá-lo com uma maioria parlamentar tangencial e até com menos votos do que os dos anti-independentistas. A Convergência, de Artur Mas, a Esquerda Republicana da Catalunha (ERC), de Oriol Junqueras, e associações nacionalistas, como a Assembleia Nacional Catalã e a Òmnium Cultural, formaram a aliança Juntos pelo Sim. Segundo o “roteiro” de Mas e Junqueras, se obtivessem a maioria absoluta (68 mandatos), o parlament de Barcelona aprovaria dentro de seis meses uma Declaração Unilateral de Independência (DUI), começaria a construção das futuras instituições estatais, elaboraria uma Constituição e completaria a secessão através de um referendo no prazo de 18 meses.
A derrota em número de votos põe em causa a legitimidade deste “processo” de independência.
A derrota de Mas
O presidente catalão perde em várias frentes. Em primeiro lugar, a Convergência e a ERC somavam 72 mandatos no anterior parlamento. Agora somam apenas 62, o que os torna dependentes da CUP, uma formação nacionalista e anticapitalista que passou de 3 para 10 deputados e que não parece querer ir a reboque de Mas.
A CUP contesta o nome de Mas para presidir ao próximo governo — tal como de qualquer figura ligada à “política de austeridade ou à corrupção” — e contesta o calendário político do president: “Não podemos fazer a DUI porque não ganhámos o plebiscito.” É preciso vencer em mandatos e votos. O seu cabeça de lista, Antonio Baños, reafirmou que “o independentismo na Catalunha é a opção maioritária e o caminho a seguir”, apelando à desobediência às leis espanholas “em colisão com a soberania popular catalã”.
Explicou há dias o nacionalista Josep Ramoneda: “O bloco independentista deve ter consciência da relação de forças. Deve saber que não dispõe de suficiente capacidade legal e de coerção para impor uma ruptura unilateral. Deverá pensar em ganhar apoios porque a sua força consiste em alcançar uma maioria indiscutível. Neste caminho, o referendo é a aposta mais adesão gera na sociedade catalã.”
Artur Mas apostava ontem numa fuga para a frente, prometendo uma rápida aprovação da DUI. Mas começará por ser complicada a constituição do governo. Está refém do radicalismo da CUP. A ingovernabilidade ameaça a Catalunha. Alguns prevêem que a pressão nacionalista na rua regresse em força, sob impulso da ANC.
Contados os votos, “há vencedores e vencidos”, observava ontem o escritor Jorge Reverte. “E, sobretudo, há legitimidades e legitimidades que não desapareceram. Legitimidades e sensibilidades. Temos um conflito na Catalunha para muito tempo.”
Enric Juliana, director adjunto do La Vanguardia, de Barcelona, interpreta as eleições como uma desaire de Mas e uma manifestação de força do soberanismo catalão que, no entanto, ainda não tem “massa crítica suficiente” para fazer a DUI. “A grande maioria desta sociedade quer mudanças em relação ao poder central, sem apostar tudo numa ruptura imediata. O Governo de Espanha tem um problema.”
A alternativa Cidadãos
Nada será como dantes, assinalam analistas. O velho sistema político catalão está a desmoronar-se. A maciça afluência às urnas é uma das grandes novidades, significando o novo empenhamento dos eleitores nascidos fora da Catalunha e que agora exigem ter uma palavra a dizer. A dinâmica política na Catalunha está a mudar.
A estratégia de Rajoy, a pensar nas eleições legislativas e no voto “espanhol”, assegurando o papel de guardião da unidade nacional, sofreu um colapso. O Partido Popular caiu a pique (desceu de 19 para 11 lugares). Quem hegemonizou a mobilização anti-nacionalista não foi o PP. Foi o partido Cidadãos, de Alberto Rivera, que passa a ser a segunda força no parlament com 25 deputados. Sublinha Juliana: “Defendem a unidade de Espanha e reformas liberais. Ganhou mais do dobro do número de mandatos do PP numas eleições cruciais. Para muitos espanhóis, o defensor mais moderno da unidade de Espanha é este jovem partido. (...) É uma má notícia para Rajoy. Muito má.” O presidente do Governo falou ontem aos espanhóis mas nada disse de novo. Pablo Casado, porta-voz do PP, não foi mais brilhante: “Evidentemente, na Catalunha tudo continua na mesma.”
O 27-S não é o fim da partida. Marca a entrada na campanha eleitoral espanhola. Os seus efeitos são ainda desconhecidos. Dez presidentes regionais apelaram ontem à abertura do diálogo entre Madrid e Barcelona. Todos os olhares se voltam para as legislativas, depois das quais será inevitável reabrir o debate constitucional.
Madrid and Brussels try to downplay Catalan vote
Political fallout uncertain from big win for pro-independence parties.
By MAÏA DE LA BAUME AND HANS VON DER BURCHARD 9/28/15, 2:06 PM CET Updated 9/28/15, 5:44 PM CET http://www.politico.eu/article/madrid-brussels-downplay-catalan-vote-election-spain/
After pro-independence parties gained a majority of seats in Catalonia’s regional parliament in Sunday’s election, politicians in Madrid and Brussels scrambled to downplay talk that the outcome would undermine Spanish unity and create another political crisis for the EU.
“No Spanish citizen, wherever he or she lives, can be beyond the reach of the Spanish government,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Monday, adding that the independence movement’s proposals did not conform with Spanish law.
“As long as I’m Spanish prime minister, I won’t discuss Spanish unity, national sovereignty or the equality, rights and liberties of all Spanish people.”
Pro-independence parties received an absolute majority of 72 seats in the regional parliament, which has 135 seats in total, but failed to achieve a majority in vote shares, where they reached only 48 percent.
While Catalonia’s region president Artur Mas, leader of the pro-independence movement Junts pel sí (“Together for Yes”), spoke on Sunday evening of “a double victory, for the Yes and for democracy,” interpretations of the vote result were mixed.
With an outcome of 62 seats, Junts pel sí performed worse than expected by many pre-election polls, and would need a coalition with the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP), a far-left, pro-independence party which won 10 seats, to govern.
But the CUP quickly made it clear that it wouldn’t back Mas remaining president of the region and was not in favor of declaring independence from Spain unilaterally, as Mas has promised.
“We did not win the plebiscite, so there will be no unilateral declaration of independence,” said CUP leader Antonio Baños, referring to the fact that Junts pel sí and CUP jointly received only 48 percent of the votes, although they would still have an absolute majority by seats if they formed a coalition.
Another major obstacle between the two groups is that while Mas’ movement wants to pursue a pro-European course, the CUP has said an independent Catalonia should leave the EU and the euro.
The Catalan vote, with all its uncertainties, comes at a difficult moment for the EU, which is already struggling with divisions among its 28 members over migration policy and a looming U.K. referendum on a possible separation from the bloc before 2017.
European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said he would not comment on regional elections. President Jean-Claude Juncker “was informed about the result but did not have any contact with Catalan or Spanish authorities so far,” Schinas said.
Gianni Pittella, the president of the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, said the vote was “a regional election and not a referendum on independence.”
“The real challenge is not fragmenting national states but to make together the whole of Europe stronger,” Pittella said. “The demands for further autonomy can be fulfilled but within the national unity.”
The center-right European People’s Party group made a similar statement, arguing that it did not wish to comment on “regional elections.”
The Scottish National Party (SNP), which has been pushing for independence from the U.K., also reacted to the vote in a restrained way.
“We are very interested in what is going on there,” said Alyn Smith, a Scottish MEP from the SNP. “But there is no domino effect. Catalonia is unique. Its history, its geography, its linguistic effect makes it unique.”
Amadeu Altafaj, the Catalan government’s permanent representative to the EU, outlined to POLITICO Monday the next steps for his government, which wants to achieve independence from Spain within the next 18 months.
“We plan to create a tax administration, a central bank, and to nominate our own judges. Our own defense might follow later,” he said. “But in parallel we will be seeking talks and negotiations with the government in Madrid and the EU institutions.”
This article was updated to include comments by the head of the CUP.
Jakob Hanke contributed to this article.
Maïa de La Baume and Hans von der Burchard
Catalonia votes ‘no’
We need to resist the glib conclusions of self-serving Catalan separatists.
By RAMÓN PÉREZ-MAURA 9/28/15, 5:23 PM CET Updated 9/29/15, 6:31 AM CET
MADRID — Catalonia, the north-eastern region in Spain, held a regional election on Sunday. Its legal purpose was to elect a regional assembly that should elect a new regional government. But the outgoing president and his political mates decided this would not be the real purpose of the vote. It would actually be a vote on the region’s independence from Spain.
To achieve that goal, he decided not to run on the usual party list but, rather, set up a coalition between his party, Convergencia — a center-right party that has held power for 27 out of the last 35 years of regional government — and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), a diehard left-wing pro-independence party. The coalition was named Junts pel Si — “Together for Yes” (to independence). And they announced that the election wouldn’t just be a regional election, but rather a plebiscite — an illegal one, by every measure — on independence.
* * *
In the outgoing parliament, the sum of both parties added up to 71 seats, the figure for an overall majority being 68. For this election they brought into their coalition various groups of citizens who favor a breakaway from Spain. So the coalition looked set to attain an outstanding majority in favor of that goal. The result was not such. They got 62 seats. Nine seats less than they had before they set up the coalition for independence. And they have the chutzpah to call that a huge success.
It is true that if they add to their mix the party that came in fifth, Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP), an extreme left-wing party that got 10 seats, they will have an outright majority in favor of independence, even though the three parties involved now have fewer seats than they had in the outgoing assembly. But has anyone ever heard of a plebiscite whose result is decided not on an enumeration of people’s votes, but on a count of members of parliament?
The pro-independence parties don’t want the actual votes counted toward the purpose of a unilateral breakaway, and that’s understandable. They only got 47.32 percent of the vote, against the 52.01 percent that went to parties that had clearly stated their opposition to independence.
It can be said without doubt that if those who called the election want to claim it was a plebiscite, they have a clear answer: Catalonia voted “no.” Furthermore, out of the people who had the right to vote — the total electorate, in other words — only 30 percent voted for the parties who were calling for independence from Spain.
* * *
There is another reading to this result, and that is that the problem of secession in Spain probably just got bigger. Nationalist parties have one main reason for their existence: confrontation, or a search for someone who can be defined as “the enemy.” When these parties run their business within a country in which they feel they are aliens, it’s very easy to play politics. They can always blame the central power, the national government, for their problems. They will make a living out of asking for bigger and more outlandish concessions from the national government.
Ever since General Franco died in 1975 and the regional institutions of Catalonia were established, the only goal the Catalan people have seen their parties promote has been “what can we get Madrid to give us.”
Catalonia today is a region with more powers than any federal state in the world. Any comparison with the Free State of Bavaria or the California Republic will prove that Catalonia has a bigger grip on power than them in any area of life and governance. So, when people say more dialogue is needed, and that a different way must be found to better fit Catalonia in Spain, the reply should be that such a way can’t be found with parties that reside in a cul-de-sac.
Many Catalans have demonstrated a xenophobic attitude toward the rest of Spain. They want to be regarded as different, a people apart, and this isn’t possible if they only have a regional government like 16 other regions in Spain. They don’t want to be just another region in this Spanish lot. They have to be above the rest. But in a democracy it’s very difficult to have first- and second-class citizens.
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Over the years Artur Mas, the current president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, has led the region into clashes with the rest of Spain and the rest of Europe. We have seen all relevant EU leaders proclaiming their support for a united Spain and threatening Catalonia with exclusion from EU institutions.
When leaders like Juncker, Hollande, Merkel and Cameron look at what was brewing in Catalonia, they can easily imagine what may happen with Scotland, Bavaria or Corsica if they leave an open door for those who broke away from an EU member state. It is a well known fact that no new members are admitted into the EU without unanimous acceptance. Which would, of course, exclude Catalonia for decades to come. It would be unimaginable to think of Spain voting in favor of its breakaway region rejoining the club.
But even though the No vote won the day in Catalonia on September 27, this is still a major crisis for Spain. The pro-independence parties want more concessions from the central government and there is nothing left to give short of independence itself.
The only reason some Catalans have to demand secession is that they are unhappy within their current borders. That is to say, they are the only people who see any borders within the EU. And that’s because they have mental borders, not physical ones. And having been led into such state of blindness that they haven’t realized the real borders will be set up by secession, not their current status as citizens of Spain, a major country within the European Union.
Ramón Pérez-Maura is editor at large of ABC, the Spanish daily.