A french diplomat on the current European affairs

After a intensive month with the visit of the French President and Prime Minister in Spain, Philippe Richou, the press and communication counsellor of the French ambassador in Spain has accepted to answer to some of my questions focused on Europe.  I wanted to cover three important topics: Terrorism, Anti-Europeanism and The Ukrainian conflict, with the point of view of the French State.

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The press and communication councellor, Philippe Richou.

First of all, as a civil servant, Mr Richou wanted to insist on the fact that it was not his role to comment the current events but to inform on the action of his country and the relation between Spain and France.

 On the question of the terrorist threat, the counsellor answered that we need to preserve our democratic model.  After the attack of “Charlie Hebdo”, an old debate emerged in the French society on freedom and fighting against terrorism. The French authorities want to preserve the model of public freedom and face terrorism. “We have to get tools as efficient as possible in order to restrain the terrorist menace and warranty freedom and security.” One of the main ideas of the government is to enable a register in the Schengen Zone for the plane passengers and exchange better data with other countries. This measure is discussed at the European level, and “France hopes that this project is going to progress in the European Parliament”.

But for fighting against terrorism, European member States also have to focus on what is going on outside. Some countries are participating to military interventions against terrorist movements in other continents. Mr Richou reminded that it is the case of France in Sahel or, in Iraq, in the framework of the international coalition against ISIS. Since the 9/11, the fight against terrorism has become more important.  Today, countries are cooperating at a European and Extra-European level. In Our continent, some work has been done but there is still a lot to do. The French position is “that Europe has to be more efficient and improve this coordination.”

After what occurred in Denmark and the attack of a French ambassador, I also wanted to know if embassies changed their security measures. Philippe Richou answered that embassies are open places and their objectives are to create cooperation with different countries but security measures are taken in order to protect this administration.

On the difficulties of the European Union and Anti-Europeanism, the diplomat reminded what he said before “It is not my role to judge or qualify a legal political movement”. There is a big expectation of the European citizens, the results of the previous European elections showed that some citizens don’t trust Europe and are convinced that things are not working in the economic plan.  In answer to these expectations, “the position of the French government is that austerity cannot be the only answer to the crisis and Europe has to be factor of growth”.  With the Junker plan, Europe points out one of its basic principles that is helping States, this is why the French government supported it.  What is sure is that electors are worried and vote for parties against this system.  As a civil servant, he wanted to add: “But we must not judge the electors, it is important to understand why these citizens make these choices.”

On the Greek situation, the French position is to hear the democratic claims of the Greek population, but also to remind that the Greek State underwrote commitment with the members of the European Union. “We have to find “la Sintonía fina”, as the Spaniards say, so as to find a deal between the democratic demands and the European rules accepted by the Greek.”

To finish, on the Ukrainian conflict, the counsellor said that in the case of the cease fire between Ukraine and rebels, European Countries such as Germany or France have played a role. Third parties as our countries “can manage to reunite the belligerents, and try to propose realistic propositions in function of the interests of the different concerned parties. “ But this ceasefire cannot last if there is not interest to stop the hostilities. This agreement is meaningful if the belligerents take advantage on the peace so as to find solutions to the problems that were at the origin of the conflict. The role of member countries of the European Union is to do their upmost in order to create a dialog and end this conflict. “The ceasefire is provisory, it is almost in the domain of the” tactical”, after there is the “strategic” issue and, for us, this strategic issue is peace.”

Nicolas MARTIN

All Europe looks at Spain

On monday 1st of June and after four decades of reign, the Spanish King, Rey Juan Carlos I, abdicated. It was shocking when the Spanish first priminister, Mariano Rajoy, called a press conference which he did not give any hint of what he was going to announce. When everyone was paying him attention he stated that the King gave him the responsability to announce to the population that he was going to abdicate. When that happened, all Europe looked at Spain.

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When Angela Merkel got told that the Spanish King abdicated, she couldn’t stop giving good comments about him. She stated the importance of the King in the transition to democracy and the good relations with Germany due to very constructive and deep conversations with the monarch. Hours before, her speaker, Steffen Seibert, stated that Merkel appreciated the King alot and hopes the best for him.

French newspapers have, as well, been following the latest news about the Spanish king’s abdication. Le Monde has reported in an objective way the facts and the reasons that made it happen. It also announced that Hollande and the King maintained a conversation the same day, in which the French President showed his support to him and the rest of the royal family defining King Juan Carlos as the “personification of the Spanish democracy process, who guided his country through the way of civil and political rights” (François Hollande, 2 Jun.) Some French opinion articles suggest that Spanish population reaction has been of surprise by the new but then, quickly assimilated and defined as a “normal decision” due to the king’s age and royal family’ scandals and they show their support to his son, Prince Felipe, next Spanish King.

The day after the abdication, the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, called the King to show his personal best wishes and to remember him his “deep and ancient” relations with Italy, the country where the King was born. As Merkel also did, he stated the great importance that he had in the Spanish transition.

The English prime minister, David Cameron, stated that the Spanish King has and always will be a very good friend of England. In addition, the British population are convinced that the Queen will not give up and abdicate eventhough a part of the population would be in favour of it. Some assurements about the the continuing reign of Elizabeth were made by the Queen’s cousin, the Hon Margaret Rhodes or even David Cameron, who said that he is sure that she will not abdicate in favour of his son Charles.

Diversity within ‘The Six’

European Elections have brought some shocking results; the increase in popularity of far-right parties in many countries and the uncertain future and direction of the EU.

The first few European Parliament elections Germany‘s voter participation reached good results: in 1979 it reached up to 65,7% turnout – while it decreased strongly in the last two elections: 2004 only 43% and 2009 up to 43,27%.
In the European elections (25th of May 2014) the German turnout increased up to 47,9% and the CDU won again in cooperation with the CSU reaching 36,3%, followed by SPD with 27,4% and GRÜNE with 10,5%.

The critical AfD party also reached 7%, achieving 7 seats in the European Parliament.

The right-wing and radical parties in Germany gathered a few votes, obtaining only 1 seat, however in some other European countries like France and UK it seems to be a big day for them.

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Picture retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/lkwk2pa

The latest results made in France about the next 2014 european elections showed that only 39% of the population was going to participate. Due to the economic crisis, the number of eurosceptics is increasing in this country, bringing for the first time, a victory for far-right parties in the elections. The National Fron (NF) leaded by Marine Le Pen, described as an anti-immigration and eurosceptic party won with a 25,4% of votes while the other two important ones, UMP a centre-right party achieved 21% and the Socialist party (PS) 14,5%.

The failures of Hollande’s political program and the economic crisis that Europe is suffering right now has made right-wing parties lead the first positions on the electoral lists and have strengthened population’s national and protectionist values, rejecting so, any european future project.

The rest pro-european countries suggest that if the results are these ones, an isolated France would be devastating for european economic and social prosperity.

Currently, the 3 predominant parties in Italy are Forza Italia, Partito Democratica and Five Star Movement.

According to a pole made by “Metapolls” between the 2nd the 9th of May, Forza Italia, lead by Silvio Berlusconi, would obtain between 18,2-20.5%, many less points than Partito Democratico, which the poll gives a prediction of between 30,6-33,4%. Five Star Movement, lead by Beppe Grillo, would between 25-27,6%, many more than the oldest party in Italy, Forza Italia. The Final results at the European elections in Italy have been quite similar as the polls have shown through the past days.

Partito Democratico won the elections with a remarkable difference in comparison with the rest, obtaining 40,8%, followed by Five Star Movement with 21,15% and Forza Italia with 16,8%.

These European elections are the first elections held under the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009, which in article 14 points out that the now elected European Parliament is going to elect the next President of the European Commission. [Responsible for the executive organ of the EU.]

Closing the European Parliament elections of 2014, there is only one question left:

Who is going to be the next President of the European Commission?

Discovering Andorra

BbOBgudIYAApJNq.jpg-large We are used to hear news about Germany, France, Great Britain… but in the European scenario there are some states of very small size, like is the case of Andorra.  Well, as I am a citizen from Andorra, and I had the opportunity to interview the ambassador of Andorra in Spain, Mr. Jaume Gaytán(Picture I him and myself), by this article I will prove you how influential can be the international role of Andorra today.

First of all I will introduce to you the main character of this interview; his name is Jaume Gaytan, born in 1972 in Andorra la Vella. In regard to his professional career he is graduated in Economics and he also coursed a master in International Relations in Madrid. He had been ambassador in Portugal since 2007 until 2009, and has been responsible for multilateral affairs in the minister of foreign Affairs in Andorra la Vella. Now he is ambassador of Andorra in Spain.

We started our conversation talking about the particular political system of Andorra; once I asked him about that, Ambassador Gaytán defined Andorra as a parliamentary co-principality. That means that the General Council acts as the national parliament, elected sovereignly; the parliament designs the prime minister and the prime minister runs the government together with the ministers that he designates. A very curious institution is the figure of the head of state, who are still the Co-Princes; they keep an historical role, but nowadays their power is much limited compared with their role before the Constitution.

14th march of 1993 was a very important date in our history, as that day was approved by referendum the first Constitution of Andorra, solving definitively the question of Andorran sovereignty and giving Andorra its own international personality. Before that date the sovereignty was in the hands of the Co-Princes, the president of France (French Co-Prince) and the Bishop of Urgell (Episcopal Co-Prince) as a result of a peace agreement dated in 1278.

As long as I was speaking with Jaume we both agreed that sometimes is frustrating to confirm that Andorra is not yet a well-known country. This situation reminds me a supposed rumor about the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy that apparently, when he was elected, he did not know that he was actually the co-prince of Andorra. The ambassador answered that Mr. Sarkozy really knew he was Co-Prince of Andorra, but he probably was not as enthusiastic as others French Co- Princes in his role. This reminds me about his only visit to Andorra, which was a shorter trip compared with the visits of other French presidents; he did not visit the seven parishes of Andorra, as it was the tradition, limiting his official visit to a speech in the capital, Andorra la Vella, together with the Episcopal Co-Prince. In my personal point of view this was a little disappointing, and I hope that the actual president will come and visit us soon and hopefully we will feel more appreciated and better represented by him.

Once this rumor was finally cleared I ask him about the importance of Andorra in the international scene. Ambassador Gaytán explained it perfectly, declaring first of all that “Andorra is a really good example of equality between states, its territory and population is not very relevant compared with other states, geographically Andorra has the same size as the island of Ibiza and a population that is less than 100.000 citizens, but it is not the smallest state in the world, not even in Europe where there are smaller states as Monaco or San Marino. Since 1993 Andorra has the sovereign status that gave the country the conditions for joining the main international organizations, as the United Nations, where as a state the vote of Andorra in the General Assembly has the same value of the vote of the United States, Russia, China, France, Spain or any other member state. Andorra is also member of the Council of Europe, UNESCO, OSCE and other international organizations. Andorra has also diplomatic representations or embassies in Madrid, Paris, Brussels, New York, Vienna Strasbourg, Geneva and Lisbon, and keeps an active role in every important international conference or summit”

Twenty years after the Constitution was approved the international presence of Andorra keeps growing year after year, getting stronger and trying to be more and better known.

Last but not least, as my guest was graduated in economics I thought that it would be a really good idea to ask him about the economic situation and how does that affect to the embassy. With a worried expression he replied me, pointing out that obviously it affects the day by day. He literally said “Andorra is suffering the effects of the economic crisis but fortunately not as much as Spain. In Andorra we have experienced a decrease in tourism, which is really painful because the economy of Andorra is based on trade and tourism; also much of the projects of civil construction have been stopped, but we are managing that by opening and diversifying our economy”. About how the crisis is affecting to the day by day of the embassy he emphasizes saying than important budgetary reductions have been made and now everything is done reconsidering priorities. Asked about how they can do that, he answered:  “With a lot of imagination”.

Prostitution in France is now a punishment

On 19th November, French MP have voted a regulation which imposes punishment for sex workers. People who pay money for prostitution will be charged money about 500 euros. If this crime will repeat again, the fine will increase to 3000 euros. The main propose of this regulation is to protect women especially who aged under 18. On the other hand, another benefit of the new regulation is to provide house and financial support to young women who forced to be a sex worker.

People who are famous also supported the acceptance of this adjustment like lots of citizens in France. To illustrate that we can say, the world wide known singer Charles Aznavour and the film artist Catherine Deneuve.

Some 70 French Celebrities and Socialist Culture Minister Jack Lang said that “Without supporting or promoting prostitution, we refuse the criminalization of people who prostitute themselves and those who use their services,” in a statement published in French media. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/11/16/uk-france-prostitution-petition-idUKBRE9AF07E20131116 

The approximate number of people who is prostitute in France is 20.000, about 85 percentages of it its women. In addition, 20 percentages are women who come from foreign countries since last year. 

People who are against the regulation started a campaign which called “Touche pas à ma pute / Hands off my whore”. They defend their acts based on the idea of freedom, as we can appreciate in this example from the http://www.france24.com/en/20131031-france-prostitution-343-bastards-hands-off-my-whore “We consider that everyone has the right to freely sell their charms – and even to enjoy doing so. All together, we declare: Hands off my whore!”. 

In Some countries, like in Spain prostitution is illegal. Also in Sweden, Norway and Finland is prohibited, only the customer is penalized, while in Hungary is also illegal but it penalize just women.

On the other hand, countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, have regulated the prostitution as a job, women have a license that allows them to practice they profession.

By this law, there are some organization against it, there is a so-called “the 343 bastards” which is group of customers who claimed their right to “go whoring” freely. Also found in opposition NGOs.

Taking everything in to a conclusion, we think that France did an excellent job about this issue, prostitution, it is a way to protect  women and girls as well, but most of the citizens, specially men, don’t see it the same way as us. Is it fair for the women? they finally got some respect. Even knowing that French government can punish as many people as they want but this will be an issue for the rest of our lifes.

Central African Republic: Political Revolution or Religious Genocide

What seemed to be a coup to overthrow President Francois Bozize has now become a national conflict between Muslims and Christians. The country’s turmoil began on March 22nd when the Seleka, a coalition of rebel groups took over the government and placed Michel Djotodia as president.

François Bozizé, the previous President of The CentralAfrica Republic.

François Bozizé, previous President of The CentroAfrica Republic.

The Central African Republic has been fighting instability since its independence from France in 1960. The Central African Republic is one of the poorest and most undeveloped country in the world even though it has a considerable amount of agricultural water and mineral resources. Corruption, and illegal weapons roam throughout the country. This has led to several coups one following another adding to the instability of the country. On March 2013 the most recent coup occurred when the Seleka took over.

Michel Djotodia, formal President of the CentroAfrica Republic.

Michel Djotodia, formal President of the CentroAfrica Republic.

New president Michel Djotodia says he is determined to dissolve this rebel group. Although it is highly unlikely he will dissolve what put him in power. In the capital city Bangui many soldiers and officers are present which gives the impression of stability but as soon as you travel away from the city one can just tell the terrible situation the country is in.

Centroafrica @ONU_RCA Instead of applying the laws of Justice, the  PURCHASED THE SILENCE.This is the worst of corrupters @MICHELDJOTODIA

Where both Muslim and Christian communities lived peacefully, and made business together there is now violence and death. There is not only death,  but rape, child soldier recruitment and weapon proliferation are also present. The Islamist rebel group Senekal is inciting this violence.  Both communities are being killed and hundreds of Christians and Muslims are forced to leave the country or live in refugee camps. Many villages have been deserted or burned.

The United Nations is worried the conflict will evolve into a religious genocide. The United Nations have been working with the country since 2007 and is planning to send hundreds of troops to help the country. The African Union is also planning a 3600-member peacekeeping mission, but it is unlikely that it will be operational before 2014.

Migratories rescues for the European Union

The migration had become one of the most important topic that appears usually in the news,some of them ending in tragedy, finally the European Comision is taking care of that.

The latest one hapenned the 3rd of October in Italy, near the island Lampedusa,a boat with at least 500 inmigrants from Afrika sunk. The rescuers recovered at least 380 bodies, it happened by a fire made on board to make the attention to the coast. More than 30.100 inmigrants have arrived by boat to Italy this year. Most of them are from Syria, Eritea and Somalia.

There is a case to prove that some governments can`t  manage the situation of inmigration in their own countries. The expresident of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, eject gipsy from France.

We agree the phrase that Reding (European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship) said once,”Any member of the state  can expect a special treatment when the fundamental values and european laws are exposed to a risk situation”

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(Some french policemen being violent with gypsies)

Following these examples we realized that any member of state is not doing anything to stop this important issue and that they used the power to do an unfair decisions. So after a lot of many years having this situation and  having needless deaths, the Europe Commission is finally going  to take some serious measures.

European Commission's building

(European Commission’s building)

This European Commission aims to provide an alternative to all those people who risk their lives trying to cross their borders to reach Europe.The main proposal that we (us citizen) would give and the European Commission to establish a mobility agreement between the European Union and the countries of origin of these immigrants, is to provide flexibility in the enter to the country in exchange for a better control in the fronteirs.

Hopefully with this new measure this situation, in a near future, would be less serious. And this measure will be useful as well for the relations between the countries in Europe, as now they will work together to improve this migration situation.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11020429

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/08/eu-immigration-policy-lampedusa-tragedy

http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refdaily?pass=463ef21123&id=524e64045