PARIS — There's something both pathetic and surrealistic about France's obsession, at the moment, with a rather unremarkable economic reform bill (the "loi Macron") while to the east and to the south, in Ukraine and Libya, real threats are edging closer to our continent.
It's time to wake up! Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe needs to redefine its entire security policy. The question lies in whether it can do so within the EU's institutions or rather through the individual but coordinated efforts of its member states.
In the aftermath of World War II, in the context of the Cold War, Western European countries — with the notable exception of France and Britain — handled defense issues within the framework of the NATO and thus placed their security, for all intents and purposes, in the hands of the United States. The choice proved a wise one. The war remained cold and the Soviet system collapsed, a victim of its contradictions.
But success can be both misleading and dangerous. Lulled by the illusion that security issues were a thing of the past — the Balkan wars being just an anachronism — the EU very quickly looked to a postmodern future, seeing itself as both a guide and model. Europe was from Venus and America was from Mars, as Robert Kagan commented in an essay that hit the bull's eye, even though Mars soon found itself entangled in its contradictions in the Middle East.
To guarantee its security, Europe had three cards at its disposal. The first was the U.S., which you could criticize or denounce at will but served, nevertheless, as a sort of ultimate life insurance. The second, that of EU enlargement, proved particularly effective at the beginning of the 21st century as an incentive mechanism. "Do you want to join our peaceful and prosperous club? Behave." But this policy, which worked well in the Balkans and Central Europe, could never be a universal model.
The EU couldn't nurture the ambition to integrate, in successive waves, all countries around it, close or far. That's why from 2002, and this was its third card, the EU expressed the will to develop an area of prosperity and stability on its extended borders. Thus was born the European Neighborhood Policy. This led in 2008 to the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean and in 2009 of its eastern twin, the Eastern Partnership.
The problem today is that all three of these cards are outdated. Cannons are roaring, men are dying and chaos is gaining ground — less than three hours from Paris. The neighborhood policy, in other words, must be entirely revamped.
The power to convince is one thing. The power to compel is another. When Italy is calling for help in the Meditarranean in the face of ISIS" advance in Libya, when Poland or the Baltic countries worry about Russia's rising ambitions in Ukraine, can we really act as if nothing or not much is happening?
Better control of Internet access and border entry points are certainly necessary steps. But given the world we now live in, we also need to increase defense budgets. We can't, as used to be case, rely on the U.S. to defend us. America is still strong, but it no longer has the means or the will to be the sole policeman of the Western world and its values.
Salvation won't come from China either. It's too far away. Nor can we rely on southern neighbors like Egypt, Turkey or Algeria, which are too obsessed with their own security and the survival of their regimes, and which look at us with a mixture of historical resentment and cultural, if not directly religious, ambiguity.
Simply put, we're back to a point where we must enforce our own security. Nobody esle will do it for us. There is, however, a structural contradiction between the EU's mechanisms, which were intended to offer a new sovereignty model in the postmodern world of the 21st century, and the now absolute necessity to reinvent a culture of security to defend our values and our models.
Faced with those who dream of recreating the Soviet Union and those who state their ambition to conquer Rome, Europe has no other choice. It has to become once again a "tough power." This isn't about sinking into some sort of imperialistic or colonialistic nostalgia. It's simply a matter of clarity, lucidity and common sense. "If you want peace, prepare for war," the Romans used to say.
Should we intervene once more in Libya, three years after toppling Colonel Gaddafi and his regime? The answer is probably yes. There's an emergency. The threat is edging closer to Europe and we can't afford another failure in our attempt to reconcile the will to change and the desire for order and stability.
Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.
[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.
• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.
• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.
• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.
• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.
• Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.
• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."
— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.
🕌 🔍 IN OTHER NEWS
Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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