• Colonies in the 21st century (III)

    Assange’s release shines a light on both the curbing of media freedom and on colonialism: Assange had to plead guilty on Saipan, a US island with no voting rights in a Pacific archipelago that remains a US colony.

    BERLIN/WASHINGTON/SAIPAN (own report) - The specifics of Julian Assange’s release turn a spotlight not only on the state of media freedom in the West but also on the continuation of Western colonial rule in parts of the Global South. The condition for dropping the legal case against Assange is that the founder of WikiLeaks pleads guilty to a violation of the 1917 US Espionage Act. This arrangement is unprecedented insofar as it is the first time that this act has been applied to journalistic publication of confidential US information. Assange pleaded in person before a US court in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands. This group of Pacific islands form a US territory whose inhabitants do not have the right to vote in presidential elections. Nor do they have a political representative in Washington entitled to vote in Congress. The same lack of suffrage is found on Guam, the southernmost of the Mariana Islands. Historically, Guam has been administratively separated and is still listed by the United Nations as a “Non-Self-Governing Territory”. These islands remain colonies to this day. Guam is a key US military base for its strategic deployment against China. Base Guam is also used by the German Bundeswehr. Read more

  • Academia in world war format

    Protests continue against attempts by Germany’s education ministry to discipline politically non-compliant academics. For two years pressure has grown on universities to toe the line on foreign policy.

    BERLIN (own report) - Protests are ongoing against the Federal Ministry of Education’s efforts to discipline university staff it considers politically undesirable. Senior civil servants under Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) attempted to have Berlin universities cancel the funding available for specified academics. The reason: they signed an open letter objecting to the violent eviction of a Gaza protest camp at the FU Berlin. The signatories were insisting on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly and opinion. The ministry’s attack on Berlin lecturers has now triggered widespread solidarity, along with calls for Bettina Stark-Watzinger to resign. From the very beginning of her time in office, Stark-Watzinger has sought ever more aggressively to align the German university landscape to the politics of the Federal Foreign Office. The first step was to cap all academic cooperation with Russia. Then came measures to restrict scientific cooperation with China, including the work of Chinese scientists in Germany. As the German government pursues its “Zeitenwende”, Stark-Watzinger declares this hawkish “turning point” to entail the “harmonisation” of the academic sphere “with our security policy interests”. Read more

  • Tariffs: on the road to a trade war

    The EU is to impose punitive tariffs on electric cars made in China from July. They will also hit Tesla and BMW. Counter-tariffs on EU exports worth billions can be expected.

    BRUSSELS/BERLIN/BEIJING (own report) – Shortly before German Economy Minister Robert Habeck’s trip to South Korea and China, there is another twist in the downward spiral of a trade war between the EU and the People’s Republic of China. At the beginning of the week, Beijing launched an anti-dumping investigation into EU pork exports to China. Punitive tariffs are likely to follow. This product group has an annual value of 2.5 billion euros. It will be China’s response to the European Commission announcement that it will impose punitive tariffs ranging from 17.4 to 38.1 per cent on imports of Chinese-made electric vehicles from 4 July. These tariff hikes come on top of the regular import 10 per cent duties. This move by Brussels is highly controversial in Germany. While major car manufacturers vigorously oppose it, the German Economic Institute (IW) reports that a survey of around 900 companies – including lots of small and medium-sized enterprises – showed that some 80 per cent, often ones facing Chinese competition, are in favour of punitive tariffs. The new EU tariffs will also hurt European and US manufacturers that produce cars in China for export. Tesla and BMW are particularly vulnerable. Read more

  • Objectives clearly missed

    The Swiss-hosted Ukraine “peace summit” was a failure: far fewer participants than planned; heavyweights of the Global South not signing the final declaration; Ukraine not emerging in “a position of strength”.

    BERLIN/BERN/KIEV (own report) - The Ukraine conference in Switzerland, announced with great fanfare in the West, turned out an abject failure on key points. A huge effort was expended on staging the event. More than 160 invitations were made but, despite diplomatic pressure, only 92 countries and eight international organisations managed to attend. The European Union alone appeared in three different guises (Commission, Council and Parliament) along with all the member states. The final declaration was signed by only 78 states. The heavyweights of the Global South – such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Saudi Arabia – refused to participate. The outcome falls well short of the conference goals pursued by Western governments. The so-called “peace summit” was designed to create an overwhelming majority in favour of Kiev’s demands, thus applying mounting diplomatic pressure on Moscow and placing Ukraine, politically, in a “position of strength” for any future peace talks. Last year, the West tried to achieve its goals on the battlefield through military aid, but the Ukrainian military offensive failed. Read more

  • Europe shifting further right (III)

    The far right is gaining strength in the European Parliament, now claiming almost a quarter of MEPs. Commission President von der Leyen seeks ultra-right support to water down the Green Deal.

    BRUSSELS/BERLIN (own report) - Following the European elections, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is continuing her efforts to attract at least some individual far-right parties into future majority voting arrangements in the European Parliament. In particular, von der Leyen and allied German politicians have their sights set on closer cooperation with the Fratelli d’Italia party of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and possibly even with the wider ECR parliamentary group, which Meloni’s party supports. Behind this move is a desire shown by EU member states and the Commission to water down the Green Deal. Business-friendly reversals and delays could prove difficult to implement in cooperation with the Green Group and sections of the Social Democratic Group. Much of the ultra-right spectrum, on the other hand, is willing to help. Indeed, the experience of recent years has shown that the Commission was only capable of pushing a whole series of climate-damaging measures through Parliament by gaining the support of the ECR Group. Discussions of the future of the Commission and its political direction are expected to take place on the fringes of the G7 summit in Italy from Thursday. Read more

  • The next Zeitenwende

    Berlin think-tank calls for the Bundeswehr to switch from small-scale military operations around the world to a total focus – military and societal – on war with Russia. This aligns with US strategists’ ideas on fighting three parallel wars.

    BERLIN/WASHINGTON (own report) - Germany and Europe are on the brink of a second ‘Zeitenwende’ – another epochal turning point. At least this is a scenario predicted by the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in a recent study. The think-tank points out the likelihood of a significant reduction in US military activities in Europe after the US presidential election on 5 November – not only if Donald Trump wins but also if Joe Biden emerges victorious. When it comes to the crunch, Biden will, according to the SWP’s analysis, prioritise preparation for a war against China over Taiwan over any future support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. The authors argue that ‘the main task’ of German foreign and military policy should be to ‘secure’ the EU and the NATO states of Europe against Russia in the future. ‘All aspects’ of the ongoing arms build-up in Europe must be ‘geared to this objective’. Berlin should, therefore, step away from small-scale military missions all around the world. This policy recommendation dovetails with strategic deliberations in the US on the feasibility of waging three wars simultaneously: against Russia, against adversaries in the Middle East, and against China. The threat of such a military scenario could only be realised with the support of US allies and a massive arms build-up. Read more

  • Colonies in the 21st century (II)

    German companies are complicit in Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara in violation of international law. Formerly a Spanish colonial territory, Western Sahara is categorised by the UN to this day as one of the last remaining colonies.

    BERLIN/RABAT (own report) - German companies are complicit in the occupation of one of the few remaining colonial territories of the 21st century, Western Sahara, in violation of international law. The territory has been under the control of Morocco for almost fifty years. Tthe International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled in 1975 that Western Sahara, in accordance with its classification by the UN as a ‘territory without self-government’, has the right to self-determination and independence as a state entity. Western Sahara had initially been a colony of Spain from 1884. Under its dictator, Franco, Spain had been repressing a growing anti-colonial rebellion since the 1950s, but finally withdrew from the occupied territory at the beginning of 1976. That was then the signal for Moroccan troops to move in. They continue to illegally occupy and exploit the territory to this day. Only the US and Israel officially recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. One of the tactics pursued by Rabat to secure Moroccan rule in the face of diplomatic pressure is to involve companies from third countries in the economic plundering of the territory. Among others, German corporations, such as Heidelberg Materials and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, have seized this opportunity. Read more