EU—power to the president!
Europe is suffering from a profound leadership gap. At a time of increasing crisis, commentators are crying out for someone to step up and take the lead.
Henry Kissinger during the 1970s famously asked, “If I want to call Europe, who do I call?” EU elites moved to begin solving that dilemma by creating the office of president of the European Council within the Lisbon Treaty/EU constitution ratified in December 2009. Appointments to that office are for a period of 2½ years, renewable once. The position is now held by Belgian Herman Van Rompuy.
Yet, the problem of confusion of leadership persists, for the EU now has not one but three presidents who each preside over one of its three main institutions—the EU Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament—plus a temporary president of the European Counselors, which rotates every six months among EU member nation heads of state. Complicating the situation further, each of the 27 individual heads of state of EU nations continues to assert his own national views separate and distinct from EU policy.
So, when the permanent European Council president position was created, not only did Kissinger’s question remain—the situation became even more confusing.
Thanks to the euro crisis, however, this is starting to change. Finally the ground is being laid for one EU president to have authority over all others. Here is how.
On July 21, a historic deal creating a fiscal and political union out of the eurozone member nations was signed. Immediately the next phase of European imperialism leaped into focus. France, along with other EU member states, began pushing for the office of permanent president of the European Council to receive new powers and lead the eurozone at the level of heads of state and government. Such a deal would put the Council president head and shoulders above the presidents of the Commission and Parliament and the lackey rotational EU presidency. “The eurozone has never had a president at the level of heads of state and government,” EurActive noted (August 2).
Giving the Council president such power would virtually make him the president over a fiscal and political union comprising the 17 eurozone member countries—the majority of the 27 EU member nations. This would give him great leverage over the remaining 10 non-eurozone EU member nations—to either force Berlin’s/Brussels’s will on them or possibly even oust them from the core union of 17 eurozone nations.
After German Chancellor Angela Merkel approved it, the deal was announced on August 16. Like much of what we have observed since Maastricht, this is a Franco-German initiative—with the emphasis, as always, on German.
This may well be the office that oversees the whipping into shape of a powerful combine of ultimately 10 leaders (described as “kings” in Revelation 17:12), prophesied to head up a final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire under one future overarching supreme dictator.
German policy is the driving force behind the effort for economic governance of the EU, giving it the power to impose budgetary and tax rules. Van Rompuy is but the puppet at present in the EC president’s chair. He does not innately possess the political power, the majority support, nor the leadership charisma to remain for long in that powerful position. In the normal course of events he will only hold it for 2½ years before it falls open for someone from another eurozone member nation to take. If Van Rompuy fails to effectively use his newly enhanced power, it just may result in a crisis that demands a much stronger personality take on the role.
Is the position of president of the European Council being prepared for a much more powerfully influential personality to take on in the near future?
1 | Germany
Leading the EU’s fleet
Germany took command of the EU’s anti-piracy mission, charged with protecting the United Nations World Food Program supply ships, on August 13. Germany plans to substantially increase its contribution to the mission, sending the frigate Köln and Orion reconnaissance planes. Expect Germany to expand its military role in the world through organizations like the UN.
2 | Vatican
Pope courts youth
Pope Benedict xvi visited a gathering of 1.5 million young people during the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in Spain August 16-21. “I’m very struck by the rapport … that Benedict has established with young people,” wrote Damian Thompson for Britain’s Telegraph (August 22). The success of the day shows the growing popularity the Catholic Church has in Europe.
3 | France
At last: French people becoming more devout … oh wait
This year, more of France’s Muslims planned to fast for the full month of Ramadan than in the past 20 years, showing that they are becoming more devout, according to La Croix. Seventy-one percent of France’s Muslims planned the full fast, it reported. “The intention to participate in Ramadan has increased strongly, rising by 10 points since 1989, the date of the first French survey. And it is also a general sign of an upsurge in the numbers of the 3.5-million-strong French Muslim population who practice their religion,” it wrote (August 1). Islam and Catholicism are building toward a clash in Europe.
4 | Greece 5 | Slovakia 6 | Finland 7 | Cyprus
Greek bailout faces hurdles …
The new bailout for Greece, agreed July 21, quickly came under fire as governments across Europe struggled to sell it to their electorates. It must be approved by all eurozone nations before going into force, and many nations require parliamentary approval.
One party in Slovakia’s ruling coalition threatened to get in the way. The head of the Freedom and Solidarity party, Richard Sulik, said, “We will do everything we can in order for the parliament not to approve it.” Without Sulik’s support, Slovakia’s main political party will require the help of the opposition party, which has been fiercely critical of the government.
Next, Finland sparked an argument about collateral for the loan. Greece agreed on August 16 to put €600 million in an escrow account as collateral for Finland’s part of the bailout. Austria, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia claimed this was unfair and that they wanted the same. But Greece can’t keep putting money inside escrow accounts. So on August 22, Germany said Finland’s deal must be approved by the whole eurozone. Finland shot back by saying if it doesn’t get collateral, it won’t sign up to the bailout. Rating agency Moody’s warned that the issue could cause the whole bailout package to unravel.
Cyprus might need a bailout soon, too. The Bank of Cyprus warned on August 1 that “there is an imminent threat of Cyprus joining the European Union’s support mechanism, with whatever drawbacks that will entail.” Even France may need one. French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced August 10 that the nation will introduce more austerity measures in order to cut down the nation’s debt, as its aaa credit rating is at risk because of the economic turmoil in Spain and Italy.
But it is Germany that poses the biggest challenge to the Greek bailout. In its August monthly report, the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, said the bailout deal might break German law, arguing that the EU’s no-bailout clause should be kept in force “unless there is a fundamental change of regime involving a far-reaching surrender of national fiscal sovereignty.” German President Christian Wulff said the European Central Bank buying debt from struggling EU nations such as Spain and Italy was “legally questionable.” Marc Ostwald, strategist for Monument Securities, warned that Germany could soon have a constitutional crisis, saying, “This has all the makings of the revolt that unseated Helmut Schmidt [in 1982], and indeed has political echoes of the inefficacy of the Weimar regime.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is struggling to keep her coalition together in the face of opposition to eurozone bailouts. Spiegel Online wrote that the Christian Democratic Union is “falling out of love with Merkel.” So is the German public. Fifty-five percent of Germans have “little faith” in Chancellor Merkel’s ability to handle the financial crisis, and 20 percent have “no faith,” according to a poll released by tv station ard on August 19. Merkel is also being criticized for a lack of vision. “There is no leadership from Merkel, and that is the gist of the problem,” the editor and publisher of Die Zeit said. As Gerald Flurry wrote in his editorial last month, “The German people are upset, and if this crisis doesn’t end soon—and it won’t—Merkel is probably going to go, perhaps even this year.”
… and Germany has solutions
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced proposals for a common European economic government after they met on August 16. These proposals include a plan for eurozone leaders to meet twice a year, with a president being elected to chair the meetings. They said they wanted eurozone members to change their constitutions, adding a rule that requires governments to aim for balanced budgets.
They also proposed a common EU financial transaction tax and promised to create a common corporate tax rate between the two nations by 2013. The financial transaction tax would be a major stride toward a superstate. The Franco-German corporate tax harmonization is a step in the same direction, and the agreement could easily grow to encompass the whole eurozone.
The European Union needs a “stability council” to ensure nations stick to their budgets and to impose sanctions should they stray, German Economics Minister Philipp Rösler said August 9. Nations would face “competitiveness tests” to measure how well they are managing their budget. “If you fail them, there should be consequences,” said Rösler. A government spokesman said the plan was the position of the Economics Ministry and not the government overall. Stratfor’s Peter Zeihan pointed out that this proposal would seem to force eurozone nations to make their economies more like Germany’s. Their economies are fundamentally different, and imposing these kinds of conditions on them would make growth “almost impossible,” said Zeihan. To solve Europe’s crisis, “Germany is going to have to be bought off,” he said. “This may very well be the price” (August 11). This stability council would cement Germany’s place at the head of the eurozone.
The crisis is already giving more power to the institutions that loan money. Head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet and his successor, Mario Draghi, wrote a letter to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on August 5 that reportedly imposes conditions upon Italy in exchange for financial support from the ecb. This is just further proof that whoever has the money in Europe has the power.
2 | Iraq
The nation’s most powerful man
Iraqi politicians acknowledge that Gen. Qassem Suleimani, head of Iran’s al-Quds arm of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, rules Iraq, according to a July 28 article in the Guardian. “He is the most powerful man in Iraq without question,” said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, former Iraqi national security minister. “Nothing gets done without him.”
“The strength of the ties between Suleimani and Iraqi legislators has been revealed during weeks of interviews with key officials, including those who admire him and those who fear the man like no other,” the Guardian wrote.
Suleimani was put in charge of the al-Quds force shortly before the invasion of Iraq. “His power comes straight from [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamenei,” said Sunni Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. “It bypasses everyone else, including Ahmadinejad. … All of the important people in Iraq go to see him.”
“He has managed to form links with every single Shia group, on every level,” the Guardian quoted an anonymous Iraqi member of parliament as saying. “Last year, in the meeting in Damascus that formed the current Iraqi government, he was present at the meeting along with leaders from Syria, Turkey, Iran and Hezbollah. He forced them all to change their mind and anoint Maliki as leader for a second term.”
This is remarkable proof of something the Trumpet has predicted for years: that Iran would get control of Iraq.
OPEC’s radical new president
On August 3, a commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps became the nation’s oil minister and the president of opec, despite his being the target of international sanctions. Iran took over the rotating presidency of opec in October 2010, so the appointment of Rostam Qasemi as the country’s oil minister automatically made him head of the powerful international oil cartel. Because of Qasemi’s role in assisting in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the U.S., the European Union and Australia have all levied sanctions against him. With him commanding opec, we can expect gas prices to get even higher and Iran’s defiance toward the West to grow.
1 | Egypt
Suppressing Islamism can get you in a heap of trouble
The trial of Hosni Mubarak opened on August 3, with the former Egyptian president being wheeled into a courtroom cage in a hospital bed. This public humiliation of a bold leader who almost single-handedly held Egypt’s forces of religious extremism and anti-Israelism in check for 30 years was aided and abetted by the U.S., which sided with the anti-government movement in Egypt and helped force Mubarak from power. This is destined to have the same result that America’s betrayal of the shah of Iran had during the Islamic Revolution: the emergence of an Islamist Egypt.
3 | Iran
A perfect place for centrifuges
Iran has begun moving its centrifuges to the secretive Fordo plant, built deep inside a mountain near the city of Qom, the head of Iran’s nuclear program, Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, told Iranian state television on August 21. “Carrying out the process in Fordo could provide greater protection for Iran’s uranium-purifying centrifuges against any U.S. and Israeli air strikes,” Reuters wrote (July 13). Davani also announced that Iran was negotiating with Russia regarding the construction of new nuclear power plants.
4 | Israel
Fighting among themselves
Beginning in July, waves of social unrest swept Israel for six weeks on a level not seen before, only dampened by the threat to national security posed by the outbreak of violence on Israel’s border on August 18. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities to protest the cost of housing and poor economic conditions, and tent cities sprung up across the country. What started out as demands for cheaper housing developed into demands for sweeping changes to Israel’s economy and society such as a new taxation system, free education and privatization of state-owned companies. Any political turmoil resulting from the social unrest will only distract Israel at a time when it is facing its greatest outside threats—an increasingly powerful Iran, the prospect of Islamists taking over Arab allies and the threat of a third intifada—not to mention the unseen threat from its seeming ally Europe.
5 | China
Someone must supervise U.S.!
On August 7, the leader of one of China’s top credit rating agencies said the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency is set to sharply decline as policymakers all over the world examine the implications of S&P’s decision to remove the U.S.’s aaa rating.
Guan Jianzhong, chairman of Dagong Global Credit Rating, said the greenback is being “gradually discarded by the world” and that the “process will be irreversible.” Washington “should get a clear understanding that the continuous decline of the debt service capability will inevitably result in the outbreak of sovereign debt crisis,” he said. Dagong had made international headlines the previous week when it became the first rating agency to reduce the U.S.’s credit score following the failure of officials in Washington to come to a timely decision regarding America’s mushrooming debt crisis. Guan also called for “international supervision over the issue of U.S. dollars” and the implementation of “a new, stable and secured global reserve currency.” He said that since China is the U.S.’s largest creditor, Beijing has every right “to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets.”
As China’s military might expands, watch for its criticism of the U.S.’s fiscal negligence to intensify proportionately.
6 | Japan
Five years, six leaders
Finance minister Yoshihiko Noda is Japan’s new prime minister. He was elected head of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (dpj) on August 29 and named prime minister in a parliamentary vote the next day. Noda is Japan’s third prime minister since the dpj rose to power in a historic victory two years ago, and the nation’s sixth premier in just five years.
Reeling from the devastating March earthquake and tsunami, an economy that has been underperforming for 20 years, and a fiscal debt that dwarfs even that of the U.S. as a ratio of the national economy, Japan desperately needs strong leadership. But analysts do not expect such leadership to come from Noda.
Bloomberg columnist William Pesek wrote, “Voters wanted Seiji Maehara, the former foreign minister who they hoped might be less beholden to entrenched powerbrokers in Tokyo. Instead, they may be getting the same old, same old. As finance minister, Noda has displayed none of the boldness or fresh thinking Japan so badly needs. Not even a hint, in fact.”
Among the weightiest issues the new prime minister faces are: Japan’s deep-rooted structural economic problems; rebuilding after the earthquake and nuclear disaster; rapid currency appreciation; rising tensions with China and South Korea; and crippling infighting within the dpj. Analysts express pessimism about Noda’s future in light of these challenges, saying that he is unlikely to gain any more headway than his predecessor.
Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and currently the U.S.’s most important Asian ally. Economically, environmentally, demographically and politically, the nation that has been such a crucial force of Asian stability and of cooperation with the West is becoming weaker. As the island nation stagnates, it leaves more and more space for another Asian power to rise up as the continent’s leading voice. That country is China.
Last year, following three decades of spectacular growth, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy behind the U.S. While Japan’s population and economy are rapidly aging, China has urbanized at lightning speed and, despite a slowdown in recent months, has much more room to grow. As China eclipses Japan, Beijing is beginning to reshape global dialogues on an array of issues. While China is still relatively poor per capita, it has an authoritarian government that is capable of taking decisive actions—the type of actions impossible in politically paralyzed Tokyo.
Noda’s appointment is another sign of Japan’s political malaise and its currently shrinking power. The situation is being prepared for China to take the top role in Asia. However, biblical prophecy does indicate that Japan will rebound and form an alliance with both China and Russia—a scenario that will lead to a massive clash between East and West.
7 | Russia
A rival for the Raptor
On August 16, Russia’s new stealth fighter jet, the Sukhio T-50, made its public debut. The jet, developed by Russia and India, was unveiled at the maks 2011 air show near Moscow and is expected to become a staple of defense for both Moscow and Delhi by 2014 or 2015. The two governments have spent around $6 billion to develop the T-50, and Gen. Alexander Zelin, head of Russia’s air force, says the jet will match the U.S. F-22 Raptor.
5 | China
China launched a record number of satellite-carrying rockets in 2010, overtaking the U.S.’s performance for the first time, according to a report published August 17 by aerospace consulting company Futron Corp. Russia remains at the top of the list because of its lead position in the commercial launch market, in which Moscow’s reliable and inexpensive rockets attract an unmatched level of business.
Latin America, Africa
1 | Panama
Look who’s upgrading the canal
The U.S. may have dug the Panama Canal, but it is Europe that is looking to expand it to a size appropriate for the modern world. Right now, with two lanes of locks that can handle ships up to 965 feet long and 106 feet wide, the canal operates at or near its capacity of about 35 ships a day. Soon, however, the canal will be able to handle ships up to 25 percent longer and 50 percent wider. A consortium headed by Italian civil engineering giant Impregilo is adding a third set of locks, which will help eliminate backlogs. The canal’s $5.25 billion expansion is scheduled for completion in 2014. Expect the nations of Europe to take a much keener interest in Latin American trade routes in the near future.
2 | Venezuela
Give us back our gold
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced in August that he is repatriating his country’s gold reserves from Britain, the U.S. and Canada. The move may be the largest gold transfer in modern history. According to the Financial Times, Venezuela holds the world’s 15th-largest gold stockpile, most of which is stored at the Bank of England—more than 200 tons’ worth. Over 17,000 400-ounce bars will be moved. To Chávez, it is worth it. With the U.S. dollar in free fall, gold may be beginning to replace it as the world’s reserve currency. As economic turmoil continues in America and Britain, and the dollar and pound continue to be devalued, expect other nations to follow Chávez’s example and take their money and run.
3 | South Sudan
World’s newest army vs. Islamists
Just a month after its birth, the Republic of South Sudan offered to send troops to help fight against Islamic militants in Somalia. On August 15, South Sudanese caretaker foreign minister Deng Alor Kuol said the new state was prepared to bolster the African Union’s troops in Somalia, which are backing the weak interim government against the Iranian-backed Al-Shabaab militia. As the states of South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya—in which Christianity is influential—come into more conflict with the predominately Islamic nations of Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia, expect Germany and the Vatican to get increasingly involved in African affairs. As last month’s article “What the Future May Hold for the World’s Newest Nation” explained, South Sudan may well effectively become a vassal state to a Catholic-dominated EU.
4 | Rwanda
A toehold for the Vatican
Vatican representative to Rwanda Ivo Scapolo pledged more collaboration between Rwanda and the Catholic Church during his farewell address to President Paul Kagame on August 22. Scapolo, Vatican ambassador to Rwanda for the past three years, has been reassigned to Chile. Speaking to journalists shortly after this meeting, Scapolo said that his visit to the president was evidence of the good relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Rwanda. Both the ambassador and the president agreed that the Catholic Church and the Rwandan government should hold periodic meetings to further enhance their working relationship. As the power of the Vatican increases on the world scene, expect more nations in Africa and Latin America to increase their collaboration with Rome.
5 | Zimbabwe
From breadbasket to basket case
Zimbabwe needs an additional $73 million in humanitarian aid this year in order to meet the increased needs of its people, UN humanitarian coordinator Alain Noudehou said August 2. Instead of the $415 million slated to go to Zimbabwe for food aid, UN agencies asked for $488 million for 2011. Nearly 1.7 million Zimbabweans need food assistance this year. Zimbabwe once was a major regional agricultural producer, but President Robert Mugabe’s policy of seizing successful white-owned farms and handing them over to untrained black workers has transformed the country. The chief of the Commercial Farmers’ Union in Harare says food production has slumped by 70 percent in Zimbabwe since Mugabe began his land seizures in 2000. This amounts to $12 billion in lost production over the past decade. A nation that once sold food to others is now begging for money to stave off starvation.
When Dad and Mom don’t marry
Two studies released in August say cohabitation is an emerging threat to the health of children and society.
In the latter half of the 20th century, “divorce posed the biggest threat to marriage in the United States,” said sociology professor W. Bradford Wilcox and 17 other scholars in one report. This is no longer the case, they said. “Today, the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives,” the scholars wrote. Instead of getting divorced, people simply aren’t marrying; rather, they are just living together for as long as they consider it convenient.
For children, there is nothing convenient about this arrangement. In one study of children ages 6 to 11, about 16 percent of children in cohabiting homes had “serious emotional problems.” This was true of only 4 percent of children living with married biological or adoptive parents. The number of Americans who have children and live together without marrying has increased twelvefold since 1970.
As marriage fails nationwide, family life is crumbling with it—and the consequences are proving to be devastating.
The last thing Britain needs in the Falklands
Argentine Defense Minister Arturo Puricelli recently announced that his country is building a nuclear-powered submarine. Superior to conventional models, nuclear-powered submarines can operate at high speed for long durations and do not need to surface frequently. Puricelli indicated that a submarine already under construction would be the first to be put into operation and suggested that others would follow. This announcement comes at a time of heightened tension between Argentina and Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, which British forces won back in a 10-week war in 1982 following an Argentine invasion. With British naval power at a historic low due to budget cuts, the development of a nuclear-powered submarine will be a great boon to Argentina in any future conflict over the Falklands.
A bad example
Australian Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong is setting a bad example by announcing her plans to have a baby with her lesbian partner, said N.S.W. Christian Democrats leader Fred Nile. On August 9, Senator Wong announced that her partner is due to give birth in December after becoming pregnant through ivf. Mr. Nile opposed the announcement, saying, “I’m totally against a baby being brought up by two mothers—the baby has human rights.” The populations of Britain, Canada, the U.S. and Australia have largely embraced the homosexual agenda. Yet, without strong, traditional families, the foundation upon which all successful nations rest is broken.
Hello! My name is … uh …
Some children are arriving for their first day of school not knowing their own name, the British government’s poverty czar Frank Field said on bbc Radio 4 June 23. The bbc followed up on the statement on the Today program, July 28, in which an executive head teacher of a group of schools in South Manchester, Neil Wilson, said, “I think the problem is much wider spread than we give it credit for. … It’s a communication issue at home. I think the advent of the media, particularly the television, has had a pretty poor impact on communication. I think that once upon a time families would spend a lot of time talking. Nowadays of course they’ve got dvds, they’ve got the Internet, they’ve got the tv. So I think this formal communication process in terms of talking and listening … has got worse ….” Jean Gross, the government’s communication champion for children, told Today that as she traveled around the country she had come across cases where children didn’t know their name, and didn’t even know that they have a name. This shocking state of affairs shows how a lack of time spent communicating within the family is having a direct and detrimental impact on education.