Vladimir Putin talks to Interfax and Anadalu; Syria, lack of U.S. cooperation, Ukraine, TTP and TTIP

From the Kremlin

In the run-up to the G20 summit, Vladimir Putin gave an interview to Russia’s Interfax news agency and Turkish Anadolu Agency.

November 13, 2015

Question: During the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, the G20 became a popular format, a platform for solving global problems. Do you think that it still plays the same role? What problems that could really be solved in this format rather than in statements or declarations do you think are the most pressing today?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: The role of the G20 in the global economic and financial governance is becoming increasingly important. Thanks to the decisions made by the G20, we have managed to create conditions not only for coping with the consequences of the 2008‑2009 crisis, but also for enhancing sustainability and transparency of the global financial markets.

However, nowadays, global economy is still unstable and cannot get onto a path towards sustainable and balanced development. In this context, the work that the G20 does is especially needed.

First and foremost, it is necessary to continue improving the international monetary and financial system; to impartially and equally redistribute quotas and voting shares among IMF members in favour of those developing economies that have gained greater weight; to improve the efficiency and legitimacy of the Fund’s activities. Besides, we see more often how politically motivated restrictions are imposed on the entry of sovereign borrowers and companies into the global financial markets. We consider G20 to be the main platform for dialogue on all of these issues.

The reform of international tax rules launched at the G20 Summit in St Petersburg is another important issue. The Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan should be finally adopted in Antalya. The next step is to introduce in practice the new rules in the G20 countries and beyond.

I would like to highlight such an important achievement made this year by the G20 as the development by our countries of investment strategies, which include specific commitments to encourage domestic demand through investment. Thus, the initiatives launched by Russia during its G20 Presidency have translated into practice.

Question: Western sanctions have substantially challenged Russia’s ability to attract funds from the Western capital markets. In these circumstances the ‘tilt towards the East’ seemed reasonable, however, it feels as though the East itself is reluctant to replace the West as a source of external capital for developing Russian economy. Is this notion right?

Vladimir Putin: Let me stress that Russia pursues multidimensional foreign policy. We seek to have as many equal partners as possible both in the West and in the East.

Russia’s geography and history determines the Asia-Pacific dimension as one of our foreign policy priorities. Therefore, cooperation between Russia and the Asia-Pacific region is a strategic and long-term one. It is worth mentioning that this region is the linchpin of global economy and politics. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for about 60 percent of global GDP, fifty percent of international trade and direct cross-border investment. Obviously, the role of this region in global affairs will be growing and we do take it into account.

As for the restrictive measures imposed against Russia in March 2014, they have, indeed, complicated the process of attracting investments from certain Western markets. Nevertheless, our domestic banking sector proved its resilience to external shocks. We managed to keep Russian stock market attractive. CEOs of the major multinational companies admit that investing in Russia’s economy is promising.

Obviously, cooperation with Asian partners in attracting funds gains special relevance in the current situation. In 2015, approximately 90 percent of investments in the Russian market came from Asia. Several large Russian enterprises are financed by China and we analyse the prospects of public borrowings from China. International investment mechanisms have been developed – the New Development Bank BRICS and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, each with an authorised capital of $100 billion. Pooled funds and investment platforms have been created with China, India, South Korea and the Gulf states to channel foreign investments into the real sector of Russia’s economy.

In order to strengthen our cooperation, we are streamlining taxation of profits from project financing in Russia and also propose new promising initiatives. Many opportunities for cooperation are now available under our programmes for developing Siberia and the Far East, which have been presented, among other things, in September 2015 at the first Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, including the creation of Priority Development Areas (PDAs) and a free port in Vladivostok that would enjoy preferential tax and administrative regimes, modernisation of the Trans-Siberian and the Baikal-Amur mainline railways, the revival of the Northern Sea Route, and building the Power of Siberia pipeline.

Question: Did you expect such unanimous negative reaction in the West, in particular, the NATO countries, some of which are major Russian partners, to the start of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ operation in Syria, and is it possible that the Western partners’ negative reaction would affect the time frame of Russia’s military operation in Syria? Is there any risk that Russia could be dragged into a long-term conflict in Syria and how much will the costs of carrying out this operation affect the Russian Federation budget, which has been already cut?

Vladimir Putin: We officially informed the US and NATO leadership of the start of military actions in a reasonable time.

We hoped at least for the natural in such cases close military and expert coordination with the US‑led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, even taking into account all the fundamental differences between the Russian and US approaches to the Syrian crisis.

However, the reaction of the United States and Western partners was quite restrained, although it would seem obvious that ISIL and other similar extremist groups operating in Syria represent a clear common threat to our countries.

We still have not managed to go beyond the joint approval of the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the Course of Operations in Syria, and even then with a reservation by the US that by no means such interaction should be regarded as the normalisation of military contacts, which were frozen on the US initiative.

The United States has been also reluctant to respond positively to our proposal to sign a special agreement for the rescue of military aircraft crews, notwithstanding the fact that at the time when the US operation in Afghanistan started, we immediately responded to their similar request.

Neither have we received any response to our request to provide Russia with relevant US intelligence data for planning operations of our Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, although we have repeatedly asked the United States for such information.

However, in the course of our activities, we are ready to take into account any reliable information on the location of terrorist groups. We have even worked together with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Russian aviation has conducted several strikes on the targets identified by the FSA. We excluded areas, which had been indicated by FSA commanders as being under their control. By the way, this fact proves once again that we are not bombing the so‑called moderate opposition or the civilian population.

We are ready to cooperate with Washington despite the fact that the US operations in Syria are in violation of international law – without the resolution of the UN Security Council, without the request from the official Syrian government.

As for the time frame of the operation in Syria, a clear objective is set before the Russian forces – they should provide air support for the Syrian army’s offensive against the terrorists, that is why the duration of stay of our servicemen will be determined solely depending on the time this objective is achieved.

And the last thing. Our activities in Syria as well as potential risks and consequences have been carefully calculated many times, and all the resources needed for the operation, both financial and technological, have been allocated in advance.

Question: At the G20 meetings with the Western leaders the settlement of the situation in Southeast Ukraine might be touched upon along with other issues. Taking into account the decision of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic) to put off local elections until 2016, does it mean that the implementation of other items of the Minsk Agreements would be automatically prolonged as well? Are you concerned that procrastination in implementing the Minsk Agreements could bring about another frozen conflict close to Russian borders similar to the Transnistrian issue? You have repeatedly mentioned that Kiev does not comply with the Minsk Agreements, including its economic part. Does it mean that Russia is now actually responsible for supporting Donbass?

Vladimir Putin: The decision of Donetsk and Lugansk to put off the local elections until next year is a last-choice measure. They could have been held this year, had Kiev fulfilled strictly the Minsk Agreements of February 12 and agreed with the DPR and LPR on organising the elections, and also enacted the Law on the special status of Donbass in its original form.

Now, when a ceasefire in the region has finally been established, it is important that the parties to the conflict start looking for the points of contact together so that they can move on towards their common goal. They need to learn to listen to each other and hear each other. Compromise solutions depend on this.

Given the fact that the hostilities have ceased and cases of shelling are rare, it is unclear why would the US Congress adopt resolutions making it possible to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. The question arises as to whether there is a desire to spark a war or provoke hostilities.

I would not overdramatize the delay in implementing the Minsk Agreements. Despite some difficulties, they are being implemented and, which is most important, their provisions, principles and logic are not questioned. We are talking simply about technical prolongation of the time frame.

However, the threat of Donbass turning into another frozen conflict is still there. It stems from Kiev’s policy, which continues to strengthen the blockade of the Southeast and has stopped the supply of food and money there. Kiev has eliminated the banking system there and is blocking exports.

I would like to recall that, during the talks as far back as in September 2014, the parties to the conflict agreed not only on a ceasefire, but also on the steps to restore livelihoods in the region. It was fixed that a programme for economic revival of Donbass should be adopted. This issue was discussed last February in Minsk, where our partners from the Normandy Four group – Germany and France – agreed to provide technical assistance in the recovery of the banking and financial infrastructure in the conflict-affected areas.

It is fair to say that there is certain progress. The parties restored railway communication, making it possible now to deliver Donbass coal to other regions of Ukraine. Works are underway to restore energy supply. Ways to restore water supply are also being analysed.

Russia, for its part, continues to support Donbass, which is in a difficult humanitarian situation. Since August 2014, more than 50,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid has been delivered there. First of all, we think about people that were abandoned by Kiev authorities and put to the brink of survival. It is our duty to provide them with the necessary assistance.

Question: The US and the EU have imposed sanctions against Russia. But despite Western countries’ criticism, Turkey continues to maintain its economic and political ties with Moscow. In this context, what future do you see for Russian-Turkish relations? To what extent do the differences on the Syrian issue affect the bilateral relations?

Vladimir Putin: While the US and the European Union unilaterally introduced sanctions, Turkey took an independent stand. Such an independent policy pursued by Ankara to meet its national foreign policy interests deserves great respect.

Such a pragmatic approach opens up new horizons for the development of Russian-Turkish relations – first of all, their business dimension. Turkey is our major partner in foreign economic collaboration. Last year our bilateral trade exceeded $31 billion. We have been building up industrial cooperation by implementing major projects in construction, light industry, metallurgy and agriculture. We focus primarily on such knowledge-intensive and hi-tech industries as energy – including nuclear power – and telecommunications. Tourism is another important field of collaboration. Last year over 3.3 million Russian citizens visited Turkish resorts. But generally, the potential for our trade and economic interaction is far from being fully unlocked.

It is true that the two countries have different views on the ways to resolve the crisis in Syria. But the important thing is that Russia and Turkey share the same priorities – we both stand for settling the situation in the region and effectively combating terrorism. With this in mind, the existing differences should not hamper our bilateral relations. On the contrary, in looking for the common ground, we draw upon vast experience of constructive cooperation between our countries.

Question: Last December, you made a state visit to Turkey during which, among other things, the launch of the TurkStream project was announced. Since then, no progress in its implementation has been observed, and there has also been certain information that the pipeline capacity would be halved and only two instead of four strings would be built. What are the reasons behind the project’s downsizing? Does it have anything to do with some serious political discords between Russia and Turkey, or is it for economic reasons alone?

Vladimir Putin: I cannot agree with your opinion that the TurkStream is slowing down. Such a large-scale project cannot be developed and agreed overnight. There are many legal, technical and economic, technological and organisational issues – including the number of the pipeline strings taking into account the actual need in gas acquisition and pumping volumes – which we have to decide together with our Turkish colleagues. The better we resolve these issues, the faster and with fewer risks and resources we will be able to implement our plans and ensure an uninterrupted delivery of Russian gas directly to Turkish consumers. The main thing is that this project is fully in the interests of both Russia and Turkey. We are one on this with my Turkish colleague Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

We passed our ideas on the bilateral intergovernmental agreement, which should provide legal basis for project implementation, to the Turkish side last July. We expect that the new Turkish government would be able to organise work on the key aspects of the above-mentioned agreement in a short period of time.

The pace of the negotiation process has been definitely affected by the political situation on the eve of the elections in Turkey. We understood that and did not force the events.

It is known that the EU and Bulgaria torpedoed the implementation of the South Stream and did not let us implement this project. Though it was clearly in the interests of Bulgaria and the entire southern Europe. The TurkStream would make it possible to deliver the Russian natural gas to the border between Turkey and Greece, virtually to the border of the EU. European consumers would be able to buy it there. But the countries that refused to take part in constructing the new pipeline would have to count lost profits.

I would like to note that we will continue to be a strategic and reliable energy supplier to Turkey and Europe, and that we have everything necessary for this.

Question: On Syria, Russia maintains that only the Syrian people can determine the future of Syria and Bashar al‑Assad. Which road map does Russia propose to settle the Syrian crisis? How do you see the future of that country? Was the resignation of Bashar al‑Assad from the post of president discussed at the meeting in Moscow? Did you make an arrangement with the United States to launch the operation in Syria?

Besides, Western countries have repeatedly accused Russia that the aircraft of its Aerospace Forces bomb not only the Islamic State and Jabhat al‑Nusra but also other groups in Syria. Do you think that all armed groups currently fighting in Syria against al-Assad’s army are terrorists?

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, from the very outset we have insisted, and we still insist today, that it is the Syrian people who should determine its future. It is good to know that at the Vienna talks on Syria on October 30, foreign ministers of seventeen states and representatives of the United Nations and the European Union supported this approach and expressed it in their final statement as their collective opinion.

As for the elaboration of a detailed road map to settle the conflict in Syria, that is not our task. The map should be developed and adopted by the Syrians themselves. Yet, we have a few ideas about how external forces could help the Syrians to defeat the terrorists and resolve the crisis. At present, the Russian diplomacy is actively advancing these proposals. They are not a dogma; rather they encourage the partners to continue a serious dialogue. Its constructive nature would to a large extent determine how successful we would be in translating the proposals into decisive joint actions which would help defeat ISIL and restore Syria as a unified, sovereign and secular state, create safe living conditions for everyone regardless of their ethnicity or faith, and open prospects for social and economic revival of the country. Let me repeat it once again – only the Syrians themselves should choose their future and their government leaders.

We were guided by this very logic – the logic of international law – when receiving Syrian President Bashar al‑Assad in Moscow. Let’s think how legitimate or ethical would it be if we invited the leader of a friendly state to Moscow and demanded him/her to resign? Syria is a sovereign country and Bashar al‑Assad is its President elected by the people. So do we have any right to discuss such issues with him? Of course, we do not. Only those who believe in their exceptionality allow themselves to act in such a shameless manner and impose their will on others.

It is based on the official request from the Syrian government that Russia is carrying out a military operation involving its Aerospace Forces in Syria. Let me repeat once again that the main purpose of this operation is not to support President al-Assad but to fight international terrorism. They are constantly trying to accuse us of bombing the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition but no evidence was provided so far. Moreover, we are already cooperating with that ‘moderate’ opposition, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The Russian aviation has attacked several targets indicated by the FSA.

To make the fight against terrorism more effective, the global community needs to develop a common framework as to whom to consider terrorists. It is not about the name of an organisation, which can seem quite ‘innocent,’ it is about whether it uses terrorist methods. So we need to compile a single list of extremist organisations. And Russia has already submitted its suggestions on this account – this was done during the Vienna meeting of the Syrian Support Group.

Question: It is expected that there would be a discussion on combating international terrorism at the G20 Summit under the Turkish Presidency. What do you think of the Turkish Presidency in the G20? What are you planning to put on the Antalya Summit agenda? Has the schedule of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the G20 Summit been set?

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, at the proposal of the Turkish Presidency, the fight against terrorism and the problem of refugees will be discussed at the G20 Summit. This is not surprising. In our opinion, there is a direct relationship between these issues and the Summit’s agenda. Sustainable development, economic growth, global trade expansion, investments, and employment greatly depend on how successful the international community is in responding to today’s most urgent challenge – terrorism, and the problem of refugees that stems from chaos and violence. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are already in Europe and other countries, who are trying to save their lives and the lives of their close ones, and still more are on their way.

I am sure that the coming discussion would contribute to the practical solution of these issues and would be backed by a final document reflecting our common approaches to combating terrorism and resolving the refugee crisis.

As for the work of the Summit itself, we propose focusing the G20 on tackling major financial and economic problems, for example, measures for sustainable and balanced economic growth, and strengthening the stability of the financial system.

At the Summit, we will discuss the implementation of what our countries endorsed last year – the Growth Strategies and Country Employment Plans, the reform of international tax rules and promoting investments and decisions on financial regulation.

I expect that in Antalya we will manage to substantively discuss the future of the world trade and existing mechanisms of multilateral trade and economic cooperation. We will exchange our views on the prospects of creating closed integration associations in the Asia-Pacific region and in the Atlantic (I mean the Trans‑Pacific Partnership – on October 5, 2015, it was announced that the agreement was reached, 12 countries participate in the Partnership – Australia, Brunei, Vietnam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States – and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is a proposed agreement between the European Union and the United States). We are concerned that the process of their creation is not transparent for business circles and for the public both in the member states and in their economic partners. It is in our common interests to make sure that these associations indeed supplement the multilateral trade system, work for the development of all economies in the world and do not produce new barriers and risks.

We have high expectations for the WTO Ministerial Conference that will take place in Nairobi in December. We hope that it will contribute to the strengthening of the multilateral trade system and propose concrete steps to finalise the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

We will focus our attention on sustainable development, as well as climate change. The UN summit for the adoption of the post‑2015 development agenda has recently finished in New York. Now, the world is looking forward to the UN Climate Change Conference that will be held in Paris in December 2015 and, hopefully, a new agreement on climate will be adopted.

On the whole, we are satisfied with the Turkish G20 Presidency which managed to preserve the succession in complying with the decisions taken at the G20 summits in Saint-Petersburg and Brisbane, add new ideas to the current agenda, including establishing the Women‑20 and launching the World SME Forum.

The first G20 Energy Ministers Meeting in the history of the G20 has become an important Turkish initiative. At the meeting, the ministers discussed access to modern energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, improved energy efficiency and development of renewable energy sources, and most importantly, promotion of investments into energy infrastructure development and introduction of clean technology.

As for the schedule of bilateral meetings, it is now being formed. I intend to meet with the President of the People’s Republic of China, presidents of Turkey, the Republic of South Africa and Argentina, the prime ministers of the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan. Before the start of the G20 Antalya Summit, we will traditionally hold an informal meeting of the BRICS leaders where Russia currently holds chair. We will compare notes on the key issues of the G20 agenda and important international and regional problems.


TTIP — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — negotiations fall apart following mass protest in EU

Global Research, October 06, 2015
TruePublica 5 October 2015

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron is accusing those who oppose the expansive trade deal with the United States of making up horror stories about the agreement in order to poison the pact.

That agreement is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and critics all along the political spectrum are exposing the enormous dangers of the deal — all without having to invent a single scary story.

Back in January the EU Commission published their response to the consultation on TTIP and it was found that 97% of the 150,000 responses opposed the trade deal. These respondents represented the general public. The biggest petition in the EU’s history was then presented that contained the signatures of 2 million citizens (now nearly 3 million) opposed to TTIP. Both were rejected as were proposals even for a simple hearing of the European Citizens Initiative.

Then in April this year, thousands of protestors took to the streets of cities all over Europe as unelected officials of the EU Commission continue to ignore the concerns of its citizens.

In June, fellow MEPs from many political parties who are also opposed to TTIP joined Ukip in standing, shouting, booing and clapping to show their dissatisfaction with proceedings. MEPs were due to set out their first formal position on TTIP since negotiations started two years ago and the meeting descended into chaos (video). The meeting was then stopped by the commissioners.

Meanwhile David Cameron has persistently attempted to call out those working to derail the deal. Cameron has accused critics of inventing false scare stories whilst urging business chiefs to help make the case to overcome sustained attacks from left-wing opponents and warned Britain would “rue the day if we miss this opportunity” to open up transatlantic markets.

Cameron, who (increasingly) seldom listens to the general public or elected members of parliament representing the electorate will no doubt use all his powers to get this deal though to redeem himself after being called incompetent by his own military generals and by the Obama administration over Syria.

In sharp comparison, both Paris and Berlin want the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) of TTIP removed from the transatlantic trade treaty currently being negotiated with Washington. This is a game changer.

Matthias Fekl, the French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, told EurActiv France that he would “never allow private tribunals in the pay of multinational companies to dictate the policies of sovereign states, particularly in certain domains like health and the environment”.

That was back in January. Nine months later and France has now reinforced that message and gone one big step forward.

In an interview with Sud-Ouest, Matthias Fekl threatened to “call a complete halt” to the TTIP negotiations if things do not change. EurActiv France reports. America has shown no desire to change any of the major issues that have been challenged.

Fekl told the French newspaper that he believes the “total lack of transparency” in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations poses a “democratic problem”.

Fekl, the Minister of State for Foreign Trade called on the United States to show “reciprocity” in the negotiations. “American members of parliament have access to a much higher number of documents than we do in Europe,” he said.

The German people are now taking a stand and now it is being reported in the USA that sentiment is going against the deal – “It is entirely possible that the U.S. could seek to conclude the deal in the next few years only to find that European governments are unwilling to risk the ire of their voters”.

Matthias Fekl, explained that, ever since the negotiations began in 2013, “These negotiations have been and are being conducted in a total lack of transparency,” and that France has, as of yet, received “no serious offer from the Americans.”

The reasons for this stunning public rejection had probably already been accurately listed more than a year ago. Jean Arthuis, a member of the European Parliament, and formerly France’s Minister of Economy and Finance, headlined in Le Figaro, on 10 April 2014, “7 good reasons to oppose the transatlantic treaty”. There is no indication that the situation has changed since then, as regards the basic demands that President Obama is making. Arthuis said at that time, that he was opposed to;

  1. Private arbitration of disputes between States and businesses. Such a procedure is strictly contrary to the idea that I have of the      sovereignty of States. …
  2. Any questioning of the European system of appellations of origin. According to the US proposal, there would be a non-binding register, and only for wines and spirits. Such a reform would kill many European local products, whose value is based on their certified origin.
  3. Signing of an agreement with a power that legalizes widespread and systematic spying on my fellow European citizens and European businesses. As long as the agreement does not protect the personal data of European and US citizens, it cannot be signed.
  4. Allowing the United States proposal of a transatlantic common financial space, who adamantly refuse a common regulation of finance, and they refuse to abolish systematic discrimination by the US financial markets against European financial services.
  5. The questioning of European health protections. We do not want our animals treated with growth hormones nor products derived from GMOs, or chemical decontamination of meat, or of genetically modified seeds or non-therapeutic antibiotics in animal feed.
  6. The signing of an agreement if it does not include the end of the US monetary dumping. Since the abolition of the gold convertibility of the dollar and the transition to the system of floating exchange rates, the dollar is both American national currency and the main unit for exchange reserves in the world. The Federal Reserve then continually practices monetary dumping, by influencing the amount of dollars available to facilitate exports from the United States. As things now stand, America’s monetary weapon has the same effect as customs duties against every other nation. [And he will not sign unless it’s removed.]
  7. Allow the emerging digital services in Europe to be swept up by US giants such as Google, Amazon or Netflix. They’re giant absolute masters in tax optimization, which make Europe a “digital colony.”

France is now considering “all options including an outright termination of negotiations” says France’s Trade Minister.

Concern over the impact of TTIP has united disparate groups from French farmers to German constitutional lawyers and politicians on the left and right.

50,000 demonstrators are expected to gather in front of Berlin’s central train station on October 10th to protest both the TTIP and a similar deal between the EU and Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). That event is part of the week-long International Days of Action against corporate-friendly trade deals. Two thirds of Germans are now opposed to the deal, hence the expected strong turn-out.

The European public, already heavily opposed to TTIP also oppose America’s bombings of Middle Eastern countries, which have forced hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe. European leaders are being compelled to question their relationship and alliance with the United States.

David Cameron, already in breach of basic democratic principles back in Britain by sending special forces ground troops and RAF bombing missions in Syria is of course used to supporting the dismantling of democracy, no matter whether at home or abroad.

Universally ignored by almost all media outlets in every western country, including Britain, whose governments has called for Assad to go was a respectable YouGov report that concluded some 55% of Syrians wanted Assad to stay.  Cameron had one third less of the electorate supporting him at the last election than Assad had of his people.

The result of America’s constant pressure and bullying of its european ‘allies’ to get involved in the bombing of countries where millions of refugees are expected in the year ahead, is that the european people are, in greater numbers, questioning the rationality of their elected leaders. This has only added to EU citizens suspicions over secret trade deals such as TTIP with America and is not only empowering them but forcing their own leaders to rethink the order of importance.

America seems to have forgotten Europe’s own pressures. Between the economic crisis that has rumbled on since 2008, the threat of a “Grexit” earlier in the summer, security concerns and the rise of terrorism and now the humanitarian crisis unfolding on Europe’s borders with the arrival of so many refugees, the political unity of Europe is at stake. There is a clear inability by politicians to unite on major challenges that may well pull the EU apart, say politicians – TTIP is no longer an imperative on the agenda.


Bundestag speech by MP Sahra Wagenknecht: EU policy has destroyed Ukraine and damaged Europe

Posted on Fort Russ

March 19, 2015
April 9, 2015
Translated from German by Tom Winter

Mr President, honored ladies and gentlemen, Frau Chancellor.

At your best times, German foreign policy had two priorities: Unity for Europe and a good neighbor policy with Russia. It should give you food for thought, Frau Merkel, if you would listen,

[Volker Kauder: That’s rude!]

that nationalism and strife in Europe, during your ten years in office, are thriving like never before, and as regards Russia, a policy of outreach has given way to a new Cold War.

[Applause from the Left]

Not long ago, the head of the influential think-tank Stratfor, with striking bluntness, explained the US interest in Europe: The chief interest of the United States is to prevent coordination between Germany and Russia, since, literally “united they are the only power that can threaten us,” i.e. threaten the US.

This perceived threat to US interests has been achieved successfully for the foreseeable future. That started as the EU tried to get countries out of their economic and political cooperation with Russia in the framework of the Eastern Partnership.

[Claudia Roth, Greens: That’s absurd!]

Frau Merkel, naturally this was aimed at Russia, but it was also contrary to the interests of the countries involved. You, not Russia, pushed them to the either-or.

[Applause from the Left]

Resultantly Ukraine has lost the great part of its industry. Today, the country is a bankrupt state, where people go hungry, shiver, and have salaries lower than people have in Ghana.

But the confrontation with Russia has not only destroyed Ukraine, it has damaged all of Europe. It is, in fact, an open secret that the United States is stirring the conflict with Russia on economic grounds. When the US administration talks about Human Rights, they’re actually meaning drilling rights or mining rights. Right now in Ukraine there is in view a hell of a lot of shale gas to frack.

[Applause from the Left]

If now, in the framework of the Energy Union of other pipeline routes, we’re talking increasing independence from Russian gas, then you should tell the people in honesty what that means: increasing dependence on much more expensive and ecologically devastating US fracked gas. I do not consider that a responsible view.

[Applause from the Left]

The list is long, Frau Merkel, of earlier chief politicians who criticise your Russia policy. In that list we find the names of your predecessors Gerhard Schroeder, Helmut Kohl, Helmut Schmidt, and even Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Perhaps this is what led to your backing off. In any case, it is correct, that you, with French President Hollande, took the initiative: Minsk II has really led to significantly fewer deaths there in recent weeks than in the weeks and months preceding; the door to a peaceful solution has been opened.

[Applause from the Left]

This is naturally an important new situation, and you, Frau Bundeskanzlerin, and the French President deserve recognition.

[Tino Sorge, CDU/CSU: Then say so from time to time!]

However, the person that the peace and security in Europe depend on must now go forward, with follow-through, and with backbone. This is naturally a problem, since follow-through and backbone haven’t exactly been your strong suit.

[Applause from the Left; grumblings from CDU/CSU]

Of course, it is not acceptable, when the shooting persists from the ranks of the insurgents,

[Tino Sorge: Not acceptable!]

but when Ukrainian troops — or the Nazi battalions fighting for them — keep right on shooting, then it is quite less unacceptable, and no critical word from you is heard.

[Applause from the Left]

Why do you not come forward with words of censure when the Ukrainian regime, notwithstanding its foreseeable bankruptcy, budgets four times as much for arms as it did last year? This doesn’t assure us that the road to peace has any actual support in the Ukrainian regime!

Furthermore, the US and Britain sending military advisors and delivering weapons is not a matter of supporting the peace process, but of torpedoing it. But do you now envision sanctions against the US and Britain? I believe that this whole business of sanctions was a huge mistake through which Europe shot itself in the foot. The sanctions should not be extended.

[Applause from the Left]

We do not need any more tanks. We do not need a 3,000-man NATO intervention troop in Eastern Europe, that protects nobody, but instead puts all Europe further at risk.

[Applause from the Left]

Helmut Schmidt got it right when he warned already in 2007, that, when it comes to world peace, there is far less risk from Russia than from America, and that NATO is only a tool for maintaining US/American hegemony. And if that is correct, then we are left with one set conclusion: that Europe must finally make policy separate from, and independent of, the United States.

[Applause from the Left]

Mr Juncker has put forward the thesis, that we need a European Army to show that we are in earnest about defending European values against Russia. This shows just one thing, how very far we have come from what the founding fathers of European Union wanted.

[Applause from the Left]

Back then it was all about — as you yourself have often said — peace, democracy, and solidarity. Never again should nationalism and hatred separate the lands of Europe. But to defend these values, no armed battalions are needed!

If you want to defend democracy, Frau Merkel, then see to it that the lands of Europe are at last ruled by elected governments rather than financial markets, not by the one-time investment banker Mario Draghi, and, further, not by you.

[Applause from the left; interjection from Michael Grosse-Bromer: Disassociate yourself from the violence right now. That would be a big step!]

If you want democracy, then stop the so-called Free Trade Agreements, stop the TTIP that would make elected governments just a farce.

[Applause from the Left]

That would be the defending of European values! That would be a defence of democracy, exposing these unspeakable TTIP negotiations and comparable dealings.

If you want to see a unified Europe, then stop humiliating other countries and imposing programs that rob the young generations of their future.

[Manuel Sarrazin, Greens, “You’re right with Greece!”]

Stop prescribing so-called structural reforms in Europe, that only lead to growing inequality and an ever growing low-wage sector.

Here in Germany meanwhile, in consequence of these policies, three million people, in spite of having a job, are so poor they can’t stay warm, haven’t enough to eat — let alone afford going on a vacation! Instead of trying to explain this export-bashing policy, it is high time — and very much in Europe’s interest — to correct it. And it is not least the German wage-dumping that is stifling the other countries of the monetary union.

[Applause from the Left]

Finance Minister Schaeuble has recently instructed the Greek government: “Yeah, governing is always just a rendezvous with reality.”

[Michael Grosse-Broemer (CDU/CSU): Right! Max Straubinger (CDU/CSU): And so it is!]

So one can only say “That would be good” well, that would be a good thing when the German government could only experience its own rendezvous with reality. Because it was not Syriza, but instead, the sister parties to the CDU/CSU and SPD that over the decades stacked up the huge deficits, so that they and the upper crust could stuff their pockets.

[Applause from the Left]

The reality is also that under the protectorate of the troika that you still treasure so much, whose criminal activities you can see in the documentary by Harald Schuman, the Greek debt just got bigger and the Greek billionaires got richer.

And you want to keep it up? Then I can only say “Good night!”

And if you want our money back, get it from those that took it, and that was not the nurses, nor the Greeks on pensions: it was the international banks and the Greek Upper Crust. It’s from these you could help the Greek government recover its money.

Who advances credit to one already overloaded with debt will never see his money again, but the responsibility is on you, Frau Merkel, and you, Mr. Schaeuble, and not on the new Greek government which is now hardly two months in office.

As for the whole debate over possible reparations, I can only say that, no matter how the question gets juridically evaluated, the least one should expect from the German State is some minimum of sensibility in dealing with the issue.

[Applause, Left; laughter, CDU/CSU]

I must say, you still laugh. That is sad. In view of how German occupiers ravaged Greece, and that a million Greek men and women lost their lives in this dark chapter of German history, I find the flip remarks from you, Mr. Schaeuble, and from you, Mr. Kauder, simply disrespectful, and I am ashamed.

[Applause from the Left as well as from Juergen Tritten, cries from CDU/CSU: Oh!]

In order to recall that the unrolling of history also goes the other way, may I, in closing, quote from the speech of Richard von Weizsaecker on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Liberation — I am just finishing, Mr. President — the speech concerned principally Russia and Eastern Europe, but it naturally also holds good for Greece:

“When we think about what our eastern neighbors had to suffer during the war, we understand better that balance, easing up, and a peaceful neighborhood with these lands abide as the central given of German foreign policy. What matters, is that both sides remember, and that both sides have respect for the other.”

Yes, only when we remember, and only when we respect each other — only then will we get back a policy of being good neighbors, both inside the EU, and with Russia.

[Sustained applause from the Left]




The TTIP and TPP power grab: handing the corporate thieves the key to your home

The time to stop these two agreements is now. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the other agreement affecting Pacific nations.

President Obama wants fast-track authorization in the U.S., which eliminates normal Congressional oversight, and speeds the authorization.

These agreements are still secret, though portions have been leaked. They signal the end of freedom, and the rule of corporations over virtually everything. Even lawmakers are not permitted to know the content of these agreements.

A group in the U.S. Congress is working to stop fast-track authorization. It will take a loud and active public to stop these agreements in every country.

Go here to access the open letter (also available as PDF in English with all the signatures and in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Greek, Danish, Italian, Slovenian, Bulgarian and Portuguese) sent to MEPs, and send it to your officials with your letter of support.

From Global Research, March 5, 2015
By Colin Todhunter

Some 375 civil society organisations from across Europe have today called on EU decision-makers to protect citizens, workers, and the environment from threats the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) it poses.  

The call comes as European Parliament committees are discussing a draft resolution on the TTIP negotiations to be voted upon in May. It will not be legally binding on negotiators but will be a significant political signal, as any final TTIP deal would have to pass a vote in the European Parliament.

In an open letter sent to MEPs today, groups from 25 countries – including trade unions, consumer, environmental, and civil rights organizations – warn that TTIP could strengthen the influence of big business and undermine public services, the protection of public health, the environment, food and workers’ rights.

For a TTIP resolution that puts people and the environment before short-term profit and disproportionate corporate rights, the letter calls on all MEPs to agree on a strong resolution that makes clear that the European Parliament will reject any future trade or investment agreements that will not serve the public interest and threaten important rights acquired by ordinary people in long struggles in the EU, US and the rest of the world.

The letter forwards the following key demands:

1) Transparency now: all documents relating to the TTIP negotiations, including draft consolidated texts, must be made public to allow for an open and critical public debate on the TTIP.

2) A democratic process to allow for the scrutiny and assessment of the negotiation texts and which would ensure that policies are in the public interest.

3) No ISDS: any provision containing Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms must be taken permanently out of the negotiations.

4) No regulatory cooperation council: all regulation must be fully in the hands of democratically controlled bodies and processes.

5) No deregulation of standards which safeguard and serve the public interest: EU standards need to be respected and not “harmonised” down to the lowest common denominator.

6) No further deregulation and privatisation of public services.

7) The promotion of humane and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and protection of small family farming.

8) Public authorities must keep the political power and structures necessary to protect certain sensitive sectors and safeguard standards important to our quality of life. Internationally-agreed labour and environmental standards must be respected and enforced. The continuous violation of labour standards should be addressed by imposing monetary fines.

Go here to access the letter sent to MEPs today and to see the full list of signatories.

A blatant corporate power grab in secret  

Negotiations over the TTIP are happening behind closed doors, without comprehensive and effective public consultation. The lack of transparency makes it impossible for citizens and civil society to monitor the negotiations in order to ensure that public interests are being protected. Business lobby groups are given privileged access to information and opportunities to influence the negotiations.

The proposed investment protection chapter, particularly the inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision, would give investors exclusive rights to sue states when decisions made by public institutions are considered to have negative impacts on their anticipated profits. These mechanisms rely on rulings by tribunals that operate outside the national court systems and thereby undermine national and EU legal systems and existing structures for formulating laws and policies.

The creation of new governance structures and procedures that aim to ‘harmonise regulations’ like the proposed regulatory cooperation council would make the TTIP and other agreements a moving target, constantly developed in secret by unelected bureaucrats and big businesses. These structures threaten to lower important standards and rules designed for the protection of public interests or prohibit future improvements, regardless of necessity and public mandate.

Evidence from business and industry lobbying documents reveals that the focus on non-tariff barriers and regulatory convergence is being used to push for deregulation, further investment guarantees, intellectual property rights’ monopolies and ultimately a race to the bottom.

Pia Eberhardt of lobby-watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory says:

“TTIP is an attempted corporate coup d’etat where big business on both sides of the Atlantic is trying to achieve in secret negotiations what it could not get in open and democratic processes – from watering down food safety standards to rolling back regulations in the financial sector.”

Paul de Clerk of Europe’s largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth Europe says:

 “TTIP is like a Trojan horse. In the end we find out that it results in lower food, environmental, labour standards and the sacrificing of democratic rights for corporate interests. MEPs have to clearly reject the dangerous provisions in TTIP, such as giving corporations vast new powers to sue governments in corporate biased tribunals and regulatory cooperation as the ultimate tool for business lobby groups to stop new regulation.”

More than 1.5 million people in Europe have signed a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative calling on EU decision-makers to stop the TTIP negotiations and to not ratify the EU-Canada trade deal CETA.

Erich Foglar of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) says:

 “Trade unions will not support trade deals that lead to job losses, increase inequalities and undermine democracy. But the negotiation texts and independent studies we see, show that this is exactly what TTIP is about. What we need is a trade policy which respects democracy, helps generate decent jobs and enhances workers’ rights.”

For a thorough outline of the history of the negotiations concerning the TTIP, see ‘A Brief History of an Agenda for Corporate Plunder’.

If you want your food poisoned even further with like likes of chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated beef, GMOs and even lower thresholds for pesticides, do nothing.

If you want Monsanto or Syngenta determining policies (more than they do already) in secretive meetings in Brussels, do nothing.

If you want Unilever, Kraft or Nestle determining what is allowed in your food, do nothing.

If you want governments to be made even more spineless and compelled to further bend to the threats, demands and power of corporations and unscrupulous speculators, do nothing.

In the UK, do not let the main parties sideline TTIP during the general election campaign.

Be informed and take action:








Letter is here;


Website on TPP is here: