The 'reality' of The Hague versus the 'distant sights' of Brussels

The formation of the government in The Hague always runs the risk of cementing domestic navel gazing in the coalition, with no regard for the rest of the world. On November 7th, 1989, the Lubbers III government was formed. The coalition agreement codified compromises made in The Hague. Two days later, the Berlin Wall came down. Communism collapsed, Germany reunited. The Hague was not prepared for anything; the agenda of the House of Representatives was dominated by the prohibition of pit bull terriers. Lubbers completely missed the boat on German reunification, causing him to miss out on a top job in the EU later on. The world was turning in high gear; The Hague was standing still.

A delegation from the House of Representatives recently visited European President Van Rompuy, the author of the so-called 'distant sights' of Brussels. He advocates everything that ends with 'union': a political, monetary, military and banking union. In politics there is no goal; there is only process. Van Rompuy deals with process in which all participants are trapped before they even realise it.

Before the summer, the banking union seemed to be far away. Initially the recapitalisation of ailing banks was to take place through the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), after 'effective and operational banking supervision' had been created. The latter will take years, because the European Central Bank (ECB) lacks the human resources and expertise to supervise 6,000 banks. Last week, during the 26th euro rescue summit, it was decided that recapitalisation is possible from the 1st of January 2013. Effective supervision has not been established, but is instead presupposed: a legal myth. Mediterranean Europe needs fresh money now. The distant sight appears not to be that distant after all.

Premier Rutte to 't Schoon Verdiep: Antwerp Mayor's Office

The sound victory of Bart de Wever, President of the 'Nieuwe Vlaamse Alliantie' (N-VA) did not only end 90 years of socialist dominance in the city on the banks of the Scheldt, but also signals a new course for Flanders. De Wever sees Flanders as an autonomous entity in a Belgian confederate state, with fiscal autonomy as the biggest prize. Every year, Flanders subsidises Wallonia and Brussels for 11 billion Euros, which is 1,900 Euros per Fleming per year; an average monthly income.

Contrary to the Netherlands, municipal elections are of great political significance. They determine the local power bastions for the next six years from which parties and leaders operate. The Flemish Christian democrats rule the countryside. The liberals have their high castles in East Flanders. The socialists rule the cities. Louis Tobback is the king of Leuven, Johan Vande Lanotte emperor of Oostende and Ghent is the Mecca of leftist Flanders. These traditional Flemish political families are part of the federal government, b now in electoral decline, led by the Walloon socialist Prime Minister Di Rupo. It is "une coalition des misérables".

De Wever has established his party as a party which penetrated in all layers of society. As soon as he is mayor - he isn't yet - he can turn his gaze to 2014 from 't Schoon Verdiep, the mayor's office on the first floor of the town hall of Antwerp. Then there will be elections for the Belgian federal parliaments, the regional parliaments and the European Parliament. "Then", he said, "the timer runs out for Belgium". From 2014 on Flanders has to be in control of itself and in control of its own finances.


When I first heard that the Nobel Peace Prize would go to the EU, I thought it was a joke. The timing is absurd. With the Euro crisis, the EU has created a situation that is holding the entire world economy hostage and which is pushing Greece back to the status of a developing country. Riots in Athens, demonstrations in Spain, with youth unemployment of fifty per cent. Does that justify a Nobel Peace Prize?

Looking at the criterion "European integration during 50 years", this is far too broad. It would have been better to award the prize to the NATO instead.

The EU completely missed the Arab Spring, supported to the very end the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and EU leaders welcomed the Libyan leader Ghadaffi with all honors. Does that justify a Nobel Peace Prize?

Yet now that the Norwegians have awarded this prize to the EU, I hope their wealthy pension funds will help out with the rescue plans for Greece, Spain and Portugal.

Curious, the Norwegians applaud the EU but never joined it themselves!

Kind regards,

Derk Jan Eppink  


We are all Jesuits

There are plenty of reasons to keep a close eye on Herman van Rompuy, the President of the European Council. Early September, Van Rompuy spoke to the 'Interreligious Dialogue' in Florence. The world press did not notice, but fortunately there was still the 'Katholiek Nieuwsblad' from Den Bosch, Rome's last resort in the Netherlands. The newspaper proudly quoted Van Rompuy as announcing: 'We are all Jesuits'. He was referring to those prominent European leaders with whom he is developing the architecture for the future Europe. 'It creates unbreakable ties. So there is a 'Jesuits International''.

Who are those people that Van Rompuy, himself schooled by the Jesuits at Sint-Jan Berchman College in Brussels, was talking about? First of all, there is José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. Secondly, there is Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime minister of Luxembourg and Chairman of the Euro group. Van Rompuy also mentions the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, who was schooled in the Roman Jesuit College Instituto Massimiliano Massimo. The Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and his Spanish collegue Mariano Rajoy have also been shaped by Jesuit colleges, Van Rompuy cheerfully added. Fortunately there is Angela Merkel, the stubborn daughter of a vicar from the former DDR, to act as a counterweight.

Return of old powers

President Obama asks Turkish Prime minister Erdogan to calm the Arab region,
while Russian President Putin obstructs international actions designed to get rid of
the Syrian President, and angry Chinese smash windows of Japanese companies
because of a dispute over a few islands. What connects these recent news headlines?
Inspired by an imperial past, China, Turkey and Russia return to the world stage as
self-conscious nations.

American professor Dov Zakheim, former security advisor of Republican ministers,
recently signalled this occurrence in an article in The National Interest, titled 'Old
empires rise again'. He claims that in particular Russia, China and Turkey present
themselves as major powers. Their influence extends far beyond their own borders.
Putin creates a Russia that is a mixture of elements from the Tsarist days and the
Soviet Union, while Turkey builds on its experiences from the days of the Ottoman
Empire when exerting its influence in the Arab world, and China positions itself as
the central empire in Asia. The assertiveness of these states has consequences for the
position of power of the US, which under Obama limited itself to 'leading from the
back'. And for Europe too, of course.