The Friday Night Song
The Friday Night Song
Last night came the unsurprising, as yet unconfirmed, news that Exaro News was folding from Guido Fawkes and Exaro’s former Editor-in-Chief, Mark Watts via Twitter.
As Mark Watts alludes to in his tweet, this news follows a tweet a few days earlier by Mark Conrad stating that David Hencke had taken over as ‘Head of Exaro’.
Many will now be asking what exactly has gone on and I’m afraid that I don’t know the answer to that; all I can do here is speculate – it may be informed speculation but it is still speculation and there is a reason for that because although I have been trying to find out what has been going on at Exaro News over the last few weeks, it appears to me that everyone involved with the news agency has been in a mutually agreed purdah – everyone that is except for Mark Watts who has been talking to Press Gazette first on 3rd June:
Watts told colleagues in the email: “You have the right to know that further cuts to the editorial team are, indeed, planned, and, as you know, no proper announcement of this was made at the outset internally.”
He added: “Even if you end up leaving Exaro, you can all be justifiably proud of the terrific work that you have done to ‘hold power to account’. How many journalists can say that today? I am sure that your time at Exaro will be a real boon to your future careers.”
And again a few days ago apparently following a statement by David Hencke and Mark Conrad’s tweet copied above:
Watts told Press Gazette: “Exaro’s management made clear to me during the course of meetings about my position that they would be making a cut of at least 25 per cent to the casuals budget.
“But they were working from a baseline figure that was 20 per cent lower than in reality, amounting to a 40 per cent cut overall. I was merely reflecting what I was told by management and what their intentions were.”
He added that losing the editor position at Exaro would result in the agency running “less challenging stories”.
Intriguingly, between these two Press Gazette stories Anna Raccoon tweeted:
So, what is going on ?
My best guess is that this is a consequence of the inquiry announced by Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe earlier in the year which is being undertaken by former judge Sir Richard Henriques which is looking at the police handling of historic allegations of sexual abuse against public figures over the last few years and which is due to be completed by November. I know for certain that Henriques has been interviewing individuals connected to these investigations and it stands to reason that he would want to talk to Mark Watts and other Exaro journalists.
I can think of three areas over which Henriques may want to talk to Mark Watts and others about.
There are probably more areas that Henriques may have wanted to talk to Exaro staff about but as you can see there is enough to justify a chat and it isn’t hard to see how such serious issues once exposed by Henriques may have consequences beyond an internal Met Inquiry – regardless of whether it was Bernard Hogan Howe’s originally intention when setting up the judge led inquiry.
Some people have suggested that I focus on Exaro’s former Editor-in-Chief, Mark Watts too much and that others like David Hencke and Mark Conrad should be equally criticised and I think to some extent that is probably fair – I agree that they both need to take some responsibility.
However, I’ve heard enough stories over the last few years from reliable Exaro insiders to lead me to believe that it was Mark Watts who was the driving force. He was able to wield executive and supreme editorial power which he exploited in pursuit of his own deeply flawed strategic vision founded on a possibly delusional, certainly conspiracy theorist’s, view of the CSA reality; too often information was increasingly made to fit this view, any information contrary to it was ignored – the owners were hands off as a matter of genuine principle and the staff working under Watts were almost powerless to change the disastrous course.
Some suggest that if that is all true then those journalists should have resigned and two I know of did just that. However, reasons for not doing so can be very complex and aren’t necessarily explained by self interest or that everyone at Exaro News was fully on board.
There will be criticisms of others and I’m certain some of it will be justified but rather than attribute blame to everyone involved at Exaro, I’d rather wait to hear their side of the story. Remember also that there were staff working at Exaro News who were absolutely nothing to do with the reporting of child sexual abuse who’ve also lost their jobs yesterday.
It looks like the Exaro brand, like Ratners before it, was just too heavily contaminated to continue.
If any former staff members of Exaro News would like to contact me – IN ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE – and help me to understand better what has been going on, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll leave everyone with one question:
What on Earth does Watts mean by “An act of vandalism” in this context ?
PS, The apology by Exaro to Patrick Mahoney, HERE, for publishing stolen material might have contributed to Mark Watts being sacked but given that such an apology is an admission of liability and therefore very likely part of an agreed settlement between Mr Mahoney and Exaro News – it is unlikely to be the reason why Exaro has folded.
The Friday Night Song
This post was originally left as a comment by ‘Joanne’ which can be found HERE
HEADMASTER OF BROOKSIDE SCHOOL
52 CHARGES OF PHISYICAL AND SEXUAL ABUSE
FROM THE 50s TO THE 60s AND THE 70s
JACK MOUNT WAS ACCUSSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE FROM THE 50s 60s AND THE 70s
INCLUDING IS OWN FAMILY AND CHILDREN FROM PRIVATE BOARDING SCHOOLS CALLED CLUNGUNFORD AND BROOKSIDE SCHOOL
FOR MALADJUSTICE CHILDREN
IN THE 60S BOYS FROM BROOKSIDE SCHOOL RAN AWAY FROM THE SCHOOL
TO THE POLICE AND TOLD THEM WHAT THIS MAN HAD DONE
THE POLICE PUT THE BOYS IN THE CELLS WITH A SLAP FOR TELLING LIES
AND WAITED FOR JACK MOUNT TO COLLECT THEM
JACK MOUNTS PUNISHMENT WAS 10 LASHES FROM A FIVE FOOT HOSE PIPE CUT INTO STRANDS AT THE END ACROSS YOUR BARE BEHIND
THEN LOCKED IN A TINY ROOM WITH A PLANK ACROSS THE DOOR FOR DAYS
ONLY TO BE LET OUT FOR TOILET NEEDS FOOD AND A WASH
PEOPLE WOULD NOT LISTEN TO THEIR CRYS FOR HELP
THERE WERE NO HELPS LINES OR SOMEONE WHO WOULD LISTEN TO THEM
THE ABUSE CARRIED ON
IN THE 1960s BROOKSIDE SCHOOL WAS A LARGE MANOR HOUSE IN SHROPSHIRE
THERE WAS ABOUT 25 TO 30 CHILDREN AND TWO GIRLS
NAMES I CAN’T MENTION FOR THERE PROTECTION AS SOME SIMPLY WANT TO FORGET
THEY HAVE FAMILYS OF THERE OWN
SOME HAVE THERE OWN BUISSNESS’S AND SUCSESFUL CARREERS
AND SOME WANT TO FORGET WHAT THIS MAN DID
I CALL THEM SURVIVERS
The first allegations of sexual made against Jack Mount was in 1968
However this not result in any criminal charges.
A further investigation was launched in 1970 following further allegations of abuse at Brookside School. As a result JACK MOUNT was subsequently charged with
27 OFFENCES AGAINST 10 BOYS
And the case was sent to Ludlow Magistrates court
The case was dismissed at committal proceedings
The full details of this hearing have not been located despite extensive searches
Newspaper articles recovered by the police also show that Jack Mount faced trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court in December 1974
He faced two charges of Indecent Assault
A charge of Attempted Gross Indecency and three counts of Incitement
To Commit Gross Indecency.
The articles show that a retrial was ordered and there was also one found not guilty.
A retrial was held at Stoke Crown Court in approximately February 1975
MOUNT faced three counts of Gross Indecency and two counts of Indecent Assault.
The police have been unable to find any relevant case papers or exhibits
And it is believed that they have been destroyed some time ago.
As per the court guidelines.
MOUNT WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY
In June 1979 JACK MOUNT appeared at Stafford Crown Court
Having been charged with a number of offences against six females
Including Sexual Intercourse with a female under 13, a female under 16
And Indecent Assaults.
MOUNT WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY
In 1999, officers from Greater Manchester Police commenced
The investigation into offences of childhood sexual abuse against young children
In the care of the Social Services Department at local authority care homes
During this investigation it became apparent that some of the residents of care homes
In Manchester had also been a resident at Brookside School
Details of residents were passed by Operation Cleopatra to West Mercia Police
As a result of this information a number of potential victims were identified
All of whom made allegations that JACK MOUNT
Had committed serious sexual offences against them whilst at Brookside School
Following a review of the accounts provided by victims
A decision was made to take no further action against JACK MOUNT
In 2012 West Mercia Police commenced a further investigation following allegations from three further victims who reported serious sexual offences
A file of evidence was provided to the Crown Prosecution Service
However no further action was taken at this time
In 2013 West Mercia Police were notified of entries in a national newspaper
And on a number of websites concerning Brookside School
This was subject of a review and in October of the same year
A Senior Investigation Officer was appointed to lead the investigation
In January 2014 officers from West Mercia Police’s Investigation Unit
Commenced an investigation into allegations against JACK MOUNT
At Brookside School this was known as
In February and June 2014 JACK MOUNT was interviewed by officers from
West Mercia Police Major Investigation Unit.
He denied all off the allegations that were put to him
In March 2014 a comprehensive file of evidence seeking charging advice was provided
To the Crown Prosecution Service the advice was considered
By a Queen’s Councel Barrister
In September 2014 the Crown Prosecution Service
Provided that JACK MOUNT should be charged with a number of
SERIOUS SEXUAL OFFENCES
JACK MOUNT appeared at Birmingham Magistrates and Crown Court
On the 7th November 2014
Further offences were added to the indicment which included
19 VICTIMS AND 52 OFFENCES
It should be noted that these offences only covered
SERIOUS SEXUAL OFFENCES AGAINST CHILDREN
No offences of physical violence were included
Due to legal restrictions and the passage of time
Not all of the victims wished to assist in the investigation
And not all victims accounts resulted in a charge
A number of court hearings were listed in respect of the case
Due to the age and health of the defendant
The case was transferred to courts in the South West of England
The area closest to the defendant’s home
These hearings considered many issues and the defendant’s fitness
To stand trial was considered and heard before the judges
The Prosecution was successful in their application that JACK MOUNT
Was fit to stand trial
It was noted that the issue would continue throughout all future court hearings
In June 2015 at Exeter Crown Court, the judge ruled that the proposed trial involving
19 Victims and 52 Offences
would not continue due to the age and health of the defendant
As such the case was split into a number of smaller trials
Each involving four or five victims.
The decision as to which victim should appear in each trial was difficult.
The investigation team Crown Prosecution Service and Councel
Were all party to the decision making progress
Considerations included the gravity of the offences
Evidence that supported and corroborated the victims
Evidence and the health and welfare of victims.
On the 9th November 2015 the first R v Mount trial commenced
At Barnstaple Crown Court
This initial case involved 5 victims
Further legal arguments were raised in respect of fitness to stand trial
And abuse of process
One of the arguments raised by the defence related to
Missing documents from the 1970s
It wasno longavailable suggested by the defence that statements made by
Three of the complainants were and as such this prejudiced the defendant.
The defence were successful in their application
And the judge ruled that 3 of the victims could not be used in the trial
The Prosecution appealed this decision and the matter was taken to
The Court of Appealin London on the Tuesday 24th November 2015
The appeal was dismissed
This meant that the 3 victims could not be used
And verdicts of Not Guilty were directed in respect of offences against them
The original trial was commenced again on the 30th November 1015
At Barnstaple Crown Court
However as a result of defence submissions in respect of disclosure of material
The jury was discharged on the 3rd December 2015
The trial was relisted at Barnstaple on the 18th January 2016
This trial was again limited to the 2 victims who remained from the November trial
On the 12th February 2016 the jury returned
NOT GUILTY VERDICTS ON ALL ACCOUNTS
A further trial was listed on Monday 25th April 2016
Again at Barnstaple Crown Court
This trial involved 4 victims and 12 Serious Sexual Offences
There were again arguments raised in respect of MOUNTS health
Which was said to have deteriorated in the preceding months.
These arguments were unsuccessful and the trial continued
Four of the offences were not proved at court and no evidence was offered
In respect of these how ever the trial continued .
On the 27th may 2016 the jury returned Not Guilty verdicts in respect of 3 offences
They could not decide on the remaining 5 offences
This is known as a Hung Jury
Following this result a meeting was held between the Investigation Team
The Crown Prosecution Service and Councel to discuss a retrial for the
5 offence that a decision was not made upon.
The victims were contacted so that their views were considered
As a result of these meetings and discussions
The Prosecution Team decided to apply for a retrial
On Tuesday 14th June 2016
There was a hearing at Exeter Crown Court
Where the Prosecutions intentions for a retrial were communicated
By the original Judge
GEOFFERY MERCER QC
Judge MERCER ruled that MOUNT
WAS NO LONGER FIT TO STAND TRIAL
The Judge stated that Mount was now 97 years of age
And that he had witnessed first hand MOUNTS deteriorating health and frailty
From is own observations and from hearing medical evidence during recent trials
The Judge ruled that MOUNT could no longer meaningfully participate in any trail
THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE
Has considered their position and whether an appeal to the
COURT OF APPEAL
Should be made challenging todays ruling
Having carefully considered all the options
It has been decided that there will be no appeal
And therefore there will be no further proceedings against
I have read this over and over and a few things don’t make sense or add up
A lot is missing
On the 4th January 2012
Mount was taken to court by one boy who is not listed on this trial
It was held in Cambridge Court
Before Her Honour Judge Plumtsead
Who believed this man Jack Mount committed these crimes and should be brought to book
The Judge wanted this and put down on record
But with the age of the case and section this and that
She dismissed the case
I have a copy of that record
I will also conclude what really should have happened during this case
Jack Mount is very clever and knows the law inside out
He has been Is own solicitor and acted him self
WE HAVE NOT FINISHED
YOU ARE GUILTY
AND MORE IS YET TO COME
I don’t normally lift entire articles, it is very bad manners but I think this article in Der Spiegel is important for those in the UK attempting to understand the EU and Europe’s position regarding Brexit.
For the last supper, quail salad is served. It’s 7:30 on Tuesday evening, and the leaders of 27 European Union countries — without British Prime Minister David Cameron — are scheduled to meet the next morning. A whiff of nostalgia is in the air, even if everyone is angry with Cameron, who because of a power struggle in his party, didn’t just gamble away his country’s EU membership, but may ultimately have triggered a political meltdown in the proud United Kingdom.
Cameron is buoyant, doing his best to avoid appearing as the tragic figure he has now become. His counterparts from across the EU are tactful enough to keep quiet about what they really think of the outgoing British premier. They speak of Britain’s historical accomplishments — at a time when the country, after 40 years of EU membership, looks to be leaving the bloc.
Taavi Roivas, the youthful prime minister of Estonia, who always sat next to Cameron during European Council meetings, expresses his gratitude that British soldiers ensured his country’s independence 100 years ago. French President François Hollande recalls how British and French soldiers fought side-by-side in World War I. The Irish prime minister notes that his country was at war with England for almost 1,000 years and that it was really only the EU that brought lasting peace.
And what about Cameron? He says that he wouldn’t do anything differently if he had it all to do over again. It wasn’t a mistake to hold the referendum, he tells the bewildered gathering, but the EU leaders refrain from contradicting him. Perhaps one important element of the European project is that it is no longer seen as necessary to respond toevery folly. Only at the very end of the evening, when an EU diplomat is asked whether Cameron was presented with a departing gift, did he answer laconically: “He got a warm meal.”
By the next morning, no one is thinking of Cameron anymore. He made history, if involuntarily, but history has now moved on from the British prime minister. The vote in favor of Brexit, after all, hasn’t just convulsed British politics, it has also set the stage for the next monumental power struggle within the EU.
On one hand, that struggle is about the question as to how uncompromising the EU should be in hustling Britain out of the union. For those in favor of a strong and powerful EU, for those who always saw the UK as a bothersome obstacle in their path, the British withdrawal process can’t proceed fast enough. Plus, French President Hollande and others want to use Britain as an example to show the rest of Europe how bleak and uncomfortable life can be when one leaves the house of Europe. Hollande, of course, has good reason for his approach: The right-wing populist party Front National has threatened to follow Cameron’s example should party leader Marine Le Pen emerge victorious in next year’s presidential elections.
Power Struggle in the EU
But there is more at stake than just the treatment of Britain during the Brexit negotiations. The more important question is how Europe will look 10 or 15 years from now — the question as to whether the project of an “ever closer union,” as optimistically formulated in the Treaty of Lisbon, will be continued. Or will Europe pivot back toward the nation-state, possibly even with the return of powers and competencies from Brussels to the governments of EU member states?
It is a power struggle between two opposing camps, both of which see Brexit as an opportunity to finally change Europe to conform to the vision they have long had for the bloc. The protagonists of an institutionalized Europe are Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Parliament President Martin Schulz. On the other side stands the majority of Europe’s heads of state and government, led by Angela Merkel, who has created an alliance on this issue with those governments in Eastern Europe with whom she was at such odds in the refugee crisis just a few months ago.
The battle for Europe’s future begins early on Friday morning, not even two hours after the result of the Brexit referendum became clear. At 7:30 a.m., Schulz joins a conference call with Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), of which Schulz is a member, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister and also a senior SPD member. Schulz begins by saying that his heart has been broken by the British vote, but then goes on to make clear what is at stake: “If we now allow the British to play games with us, the entire EU will fly apart,” he says.
That sentence sets the tone. It is a strategy not just propelled by the fear that other EU member states could seek to follow the British example. The hope is to get rid of the British as quickly as possible since the country has long been one of the most adamant opponents to all forms of greater EU integration.
At 8:15 a.m., Merkel grabs for the phone in the Chancellery. She spent the morning following the referendum returns at home in her apartment and she is shocked by the result. She doesn’t have a plan B and now Merkel wants to play for time so she can develop a strategy. In contrast to Schulz and Juncker, she doesn’t believe that Britain’s departure from the EU is a foregone conclusion. For Merkel, the British have always been an important ally in the fight against an overly powerful EU and against overly lenient fiscal policies of the kind favored by France and countries in southern Europe. On the other end of the line on Friday morning is Horst Seehofer, the powerful governor of Bavaria and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Seehofer has a similar view of the situation to Merkel: Treat the British amicably, don’t rush them and play for time. And immediately choke off all efforts aimed at “more Europe.”
Stronger, More Independent EU
At 8:45, the SPD posts a position paper on its homepage called “Re-Founding Europe.” It was written by Schulz and Gabriel before British voters headed to the polls for the Brexit referendum. In the Chancellery, it is interpreted as it is meant: as a challenge to Merkel’s policies. Europe now needs the courage to “risk something grander,” the paper reads. Merkel would like leadership in Europe to run through its member states. Schulz, though, like Juncker, would like to transform the Commission into a “true European government.” “We need an ambitious and powerful thrust and not a timid patchwork,” the paper argues.
Schulz and Juncker have long been working towards limiting the influence of European heads of state and government in the EU, wanting instead to develop a stronger, more independent union. That is the nucleus of a package they agreed to one late night in May 2014. The deal came following months of campaigning ahead of European parliamentary elections, with Juncker as the lead candidate for conservatives across the EU and Schulz in the same role for European Social Democrats. Juncker won and became Commission president while Schulz remained in his role as president of European Parliament. On that night in May, the two pledged to cease working against each other and to join forces to ensure greater powers for the EU — and to ensure that the European Council, made up of EU member state leaders, loses influence. It was a pact against Merkel, who would like to have prevented Juncker from becoming Commission president.
At 1 p.m. on the Friday after the Brexit referendum, Merkel makes a statement to Berlin journalists in which — in contrast to Schulz — she does not demand a rapid British withdrawal. One shouldn’t “draw quick and easy conclusions from the British referendum that could further divide Europe,” she says.
From Merkel’s point of view, the crisis is one for European member state leaders to address. She sees the idea of “more Europe” as being the intensification of cooperation between EU governments, not the transfer of yet more authority to Brussels.
After Merkel speaks with Juncker on the phone that weekend, her belief that the Commission president is more a part of the problem than a part of the solution doesn’t change. The chancellor believes that Juncker’s appetite for power is one of the reasons why the British have turned their backs on Europe.
Merkel coordinates her approach with her powerful finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, who in the past has always presented himself as a passionate European in contrast to Merkel, the technocrat. But now, the two are in agreement. Simply calling for “more Europe” plays into the hands of Euroskeptics, Merkel says at a previously planned Friday meeting of CDU and CSU leaders in Potsdam. Those who are now demanding more integration, particularly in the euro zone, didn’t understand the message of Brexit, Schäuble believes.
No Pressure on Britain
Schäuble wants to present a plan for how the remaining 27 EU members can improve their cooperation and strengthen their cohesion. Included in his list of measures is the completion of the single market and the unhindered, cross-border movement of capital. Schäuble believes it is also necessary to establish common, EU-wide bankruptcy proceedings for companies. Member states should also reach agreement on how to achieve greater economic growth, he says, in addition to improving controls of the EU’s external borders and coming up with a joint asylum policy. If not all 27 member states are willing to pursue such measures, Schäuble says that those prepared to move ahead together should do so.
On Sunday, Merkel meets with a handful of confidants, including Chancellery Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier. The group examines a variety of different eventualities, including a second British referendum and snap UK elections. Merkel and Altmaier want to do all they can to prevent Britain from leaving, with Merkel saying that the EU should avoid exerting too much pressure. “Policymakers in London should have the possibility to reconsider the effects of leaving,” Altmaier says in an interview.
On the same day, Merkel holds a long conversation with François Hollande. The French president insists on a rapid decision from Britain — he wants to get rid of them as quickly as possible. The EU, he says, must be extremely clear about what leaving the bloc entails. Hollande also believes that Britain’s departure represents an opportunity both for himself and his country. Brexit would increase France’s influence in the EU.
In contrast to Merkel, Hollande would prefer a strategy pursuing deeper European integration. Prior to his election, he promised to reshape the EU and to give it a “friendlier, warmer face.” At the time, Merkel understood the message to be: “Allow us to take on more debt!”
On Monday, Merkel and Holland meet together in the Chancellery in Berlin along with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Their contrasting approaches to Brexit come up and, in the end, they reach a compromise: Proposals for further EU development in the areas of security, employment, youth and euro-zone cooperation should be presented by September, it says in their joint statement. The hope is that the plan will at least get them through the next several weeks.
When Merkel delivers her government statement to German parliament on Tuesday morning just before the beginning of the EU summit, her tone regarding how the UK should be approached is a bit more severe than in the preceding days. She emphasizes that there can be no secret negotiations with the British before the country officially applies for withdrawal and that London will not be allowed to “cherry pick.” She remains true, however, to her utmost concern: that of giving Britain as much time as possible.
It has become apparent in Brussels too just how vigorously the battle is being fought between those who envision a more powerful EU and those in favor of a nation state-led Europe. The front leads through all countries and all parties. At 8:30 p.m., German members of the European People’s Party — the center-right group in European Parliament — meet. The discussion is focused on the resolution to be passed by European Parliament on Brexit and the atmosphere is heated.
Herbert Reul, head of the German group, laments that the draft resolution was produced only by a small group under the leadership of Schulz and CDU member Elmar Brok. Brok is part of the EU establishment and has for decades been a proponent of taking advantage of EU crises to deepen European integration. Meeting participants complain that now is not the time for a new convention to pave the way for deeper European unity.
There is nothing about a new convention in the paper, Brok objects. “But it does mention treaty amendments,” says CSU member Markus Ferber, and to make such changes, he adds, a convention is necessary. “You’re only telling us half of the story,” Ferber fulminates. “You’re lying to us!”
On Tuesday evening, EU heads of state and government come together for what could be their last supper together with Cameron. On the following morning, they make clear to Juncker that they will be taking the lead in the exit negotiations with Britain. “But that is the Commission’s responsibility,” Juncker protests. “Jean-Claude, we have been elected, you haven’t been,” is the rejoinder from several prime ministers and heads of state.
It’s the age-old European battle over who possesses the greatest amount of democratic legitimacy — and for the moment it doesn’t look like momentum is in favor of Juncker’s Commission and his partner Schulz’s European Parliament.
Europe’s government leaders agree on Wednesday that no changes should be made to European treaties and that there definitely should not be a convention. There also won’t be any fundamental modifications made to the EU and no deepening of integration. “It is not the time for such things,” says Merkel. It looks as though she has won this battle with the Schulz-Juncker tandem and that the concept of Europe as a collection of nation states has won this round.
The severe treatment of Britain demanded by some will also not be pursued initially. Instead, the EU will calmly wait, at least until September, to see how the situation in London develops. Europe is pausing for reflection instead of rushing to implement greater integration.
There remains, however, plenty of room for compromise. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland’s national-conservative Law and Justice party, which currently holds power in the country, doesn’t want “less Europe” in all areas. When it comes to foreign and security policy, he would even like to see the EU play a more robust role. Kaczynski is in favor of the establishment of a European army and would like to see a strong European president with far-reaching authority. It is a demand that many governments in eastern and central Europe agree with.
By contrast, left-leaning governments, primarily in southern Europe, would like to see greater public investment. One idea to promote such investment envisions the establishment of a euro-zone budget, which would automatically grant greater powers to the Commission and the European Parliament, because such a budget would have to be managed and be subjected to parliamentary controls.
Finally, the refugee crisis has produced a third group with shared interests: Countries like Sweden and Germany took in a huge number of refugees in 2015 and are demanding the establishment of a joint asylum system, including the fair distribution of refugees throughout the EU. This too would essentially result in “more Europe.”
An Irascible Juncker
It is true that people in almost all member states have become more skeptical of the EU. But it is also true that this skepticism has a variety of vastly different causes. If every EU member were prepared to make concessions to the concerns of others, everyone could emerge better off.
In mid-September, EU heads of state and government are to meet in Bratislava to consider what the EU’s future priorities will be. Slovakia will hold the rotating EU presidency and the country’s prime minister, Robert Fico, is a proponent of an EU made up of strong nation states, much like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. He promises to be Juncker’s next difficult adversary, although it looks as though the new situation in Europe has already left its mark on the European Commission president.
Wherever he makes an appearance these days, he seems to be under stress. The jocularity and nonchalance he otherwise exudes has vanished. Juncker these days is ill-tempered and irascible.
After the summit comes to an end, a reporter from Austrian public broadcaster ORF becomes the focus of his frustration. She asks a question about CETA, the already negotiated free-trade agreement with Canada. The day before, Juncker has told European leaders that he would like to enact the treaty without the involvement of national parliaments in EU member states — thus feeding into all the stereotypes out there of an autocratic, elitist Brussels.
From a purely legal point of view, Juncker’s approach is defensible, but the timing shows a stunning degree of tone deafness. He “doesn’t really care,” he answers in response to the ORF reporter’s question about the treaty’s legal character. “Stop with this Austrian fuss. As if I would take aim at Austrian democracy.”
His friend Martin Schulz appears more philosophical about the backlash against his vision of Europe. On Wednesday afternoon, right after EU member state leaders left Brussels following the summit, he allows himself a moment to catch his breath. He is sitting in a black leather armchair in his office on the ninth floor of the enormous European Parliament building in Brussels. On a pedestal behind him are an EU flag and a statue of Willy Brandt.
In reference to Brexit, he quotes George Bernard Shaw: “Old men are dangerous: It doesn’t matter to them what is going to happen to the world.” He then addresses the Euroskepticism that he and Juncker have been confronted with in recent days. It doesn’t faze him, he says. He was first elected to European Parliament 22 years ago, Schulz continues. Now, the EU is stumbling from crisis to crisis and he is supposed to refrain from thinking about Europe’s future? Schulz finds the idea absurd. “Everyone always asks: Where are the visions for Europe? And then when you present one, you are told: Now isn’t the time. So which is it?”
Friday Night Song