June 2012

Germany Angry Over Debt Crisis

Steven LeBlanc

What is taking place in Europe this week is very important: The EU (European Union) countries, taken together, still constitute the world’s largest economy. If the European economies slide into a depression, America will see higher unemployment numbers. The economy of China is slowing, Europe is slowing: these developments have frightened the world financial markets.

The pivotal reason that the Europeans are stumbling through the crisis with little progress is that the European Union remains divided on how to address the massive debt issues. Some countries, like Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, insist on fiscal discipline, while most of the other countries are calling for financial transfers from the wealthy north to the poorer southern nations. Germany does not believe that giving more money to the debt- ridden nations is the answer, unless these nations do more to restrict government spending.

Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply criticized the idea of Euro bonds as a means of delivering Europe out of its severe debt crisis. The German leader said instruments such as euro bonds, short-term euro bills and a common debt repayment fund would be in breach of the German constitution, and that she regarded them (Euro bonds) as “economically wrong and counterproductive.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel is taking a hard line on the euro crisis this week, insisting that shared debt be avoided at all costs. The German leader said, “the economic motor and anchor of stability in Europe is Germany, but even Germany’s strength isn’t endless”. The German Chancellor went on to say, “Our work must convince those who have lost confidence in the euro zone, not by self-deception and sham solutions but by fighting the causes of the crisis,”. She warned that Germany can’t save the euro on its own.

The feet of the image described in Daniel 2:41-43 reveal an end-time Europe that is a deeply flawed: “And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron …. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay … they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.”

Some nations, like Germany, are strong like iron. Others such as Greece and Spain, like clay compared to iron, are weak and struggling. The European Union is a mix of stable nations and very unstable nations—Before Christ returns 10 leaders in Europe will give their power to an end-time European dictator. See Revelation 17:12-14: The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings —and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

It is extremely important for you to watch closely what takes shape in Europe.

Egyptian Elections Not Good For Israel

Steven LeBlanc

News out of Egypt is not good for Israel. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was officially declared Egypt’s first freely elected president on Sunday. Morsi became the first Islamist head of state of the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Egypt receives about 1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid, most of it intended for the military. Whether America continues to give aid to Egypt is an important question. The pivot may be whether Egypt will now go back on its peace treaty with Israel (Camp David Accords).

The Muslim Brotherhood victory has escalated fears in Israel that its strategic 1979 peace agreement with Egypt could be in danger. Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt, its first with an Arab country, is a cornerstone of Israeli security. The agreement ended decades of hostilities including five wars and thousands of deaths.

The cold peace between Israel and Egypt has survived for over 30 years; Egypt has upheld the treaty, keeping its bordering Sinai peninsula largely demilitarized, allowing the Israeli military to focus on other hostile borders with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon. But now Israel realizes that most likely, sometime in the future, the Camp David Accords will one day die, and Egypt will once again become an enemy.

An end time prophecy found in Daniel 11 clearly states that “the land of Egypt shall not escape” the military invasion by the king of the North (verse 42). An end-time Muslim alliance will be spearheaded by the king of the South (verse 40). This King of the South will be anti Israel, and he may come from the nation of Egypt. Clearly, Egypt will play a more significant role in world affairs as we approach the return of Christ to this earth.

Another Virus Attack Against Iran

Steven LeBlanc

A newly found computer virus is creating trouble within Iran’s nuclear computer network. The Washington Post claims that the United States and Israel collaborated to create the Flame computer virus as part of an effort to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons agenda.

The paper said, “Western officials with knowledge of the effort,” said the sophisticated computer virus was designed to spy on Iran’s computer networks and send back intelligence used for an ongoing cyber warfare campaign.

The Post reported the US National Security Agency and CIA worked with Israel’s military on the project. It is also believed that Israel and the U.S. were the source of the Stuxnet virus that did much damage to Iran’s nuclear equipment.
More reports are linking Israel and the United States to Flame and another virus called Stuxnet, which caused malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear enrichment equipment.

The cyber attacks are intended to slow down Iran’s nuclear work. The European Debt Crisis has dominated world news of late, but we must not lose sight of the impending clash between Israel and Iran. The truth is we only see bits and pieces of the escalating tensions between Israel and Iran.

Prophecy revels that there is an invisible spirit world that often does battle at a level we do not see—a type of parallel world that influences leaders at high levels of government (see Daniel chapter 10). Some international leaders may actually be influenced by lying spirits (see 2 Chron. 18:21).

The Pressure for European Unity Continues

The turbulent seas of the global economy have become far too rough for a rickety patchwork of independent European states to continue as is. European Voice Magazine reported the following this morning regarding the drive for greater unity within Europe:

The leaders of the European Union‘s 27 member states are to decide next week (28-29 June) whether to launch the eurozone towards greater political and fiscal integration….

The tone of next week’s meeting will be set tomorrow (22 June) when the leaders of the eurozone’s four biggest economies, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, meet in Rome. The outcome of the European Council may depend on the extent to which François Hollande, the president of France, and Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy, the prime ministers of Italy and Spain, can persuade Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, to soften her stance against the mutualisation of debt, direct recapitalisation of banks by bypassing governments, and the creation of shared funds to stand behind Europe’s biggest banks and protect depositors.

Berlin’s resistance to the adoption of mutual debt stems primarily from German voter hostility to assuming responsibility for what they consider to be the irresponsible tax and spend policies of their Mediterranean partners (Greece, Italy and Spain). It appears, however, that moves towards a joint European assumption of individual,  national debt, are necessary if the continent is to avoid economic depression, and that Ms. Merket will be compelled to accept this to a certain degree.

However, to sell it to her domestic constituents, Angela Merkel will have to obtain concessions from the other EU states that will pacify German voter resistance to the mutualisation of debt. In this regard, it would seem that Germany favors placing their EU neighbors under greater economic scrutiny through the institution of a federal European economic government. Other EU member states have resisted this approach, seeing it as essentially a surrender of sovereignty to German influence. However, the need of the Mediterranean states to find relief for their national debt situation seems almost certain to compel them to accept Germany’s requirements that they give up national sovereignty over their economies.

Whether these initial moves next week towards greater unity within Europe will achieve a viable result remains to be seen, but it seems almost beyond question that to survive, Europe must find a way towards greater unity. In time, the pressure exerted by global financial markets appears set to increase, meaning that politicians in European capitals will remain under sustained pressure to unify their states under a federal European government.

Across the Atlantic however, it would appear that unity is also a problem. CNBC continues to report on the fragmentation of American politics, and its corrosive effect on the US economy. Thus while Europe contemplates unifying, America gets further stuck into divisive politics.

Eye on Europe

 

 

 

The Politics of Instability

Americans, with their staid tradition of choosing between Republicans and Democrats, would find themselves thoroughly confused by the choice Europeans are confronted with at the ballot box.  As an example, it was recently reported that 35 parties attempted to register for the next general election in the Netherlands, meaning that Dutch voters will face a dizzying array of options when they cast their votes – a scenario which is repeated to one degree or another throughout continental Europe. Thus if US elections are a gray competition between the same two perennial contenders, it may seem that Europeans are by contrast presented with a veritable carnival of choice.   

But, even here in Europe, there is a method to the political madness. Generally, political parties in Europe may be divided into three categories: let’s call them tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3.  The tier-1 parties are those which are usually asked to form a government, and they are typically described as your center-left or center-right party. The tier-1 parties are quite often identified by their origins in either a Christian (Protestant or Catholic) or patriotic movement, which generally holds to a more conservative line supportive of traditional values, or, on the left, with a labor union movement, which means that they will favor a degree of socialism and socially liberal policies. In recent years, the differences between the center-right and center-left have narrowed considerably, so that they are perceived as two sides of the same coin.

Tier-2 comprises those political movements with a more narrow appeal. They will often be the pro-business parties who support greater liberalization in the market place, or on the left side of things, the green parties whose message is focused on the environment.  Sometimes these parties will be regionally or ethnically based. In any case, parties of this kind may be invited into government as junior partners with a larger tier-1 party, but as a rule, do not have enough support to win an election outright.

Rounding out the selection are your radicals. These are the tier-3 parties that are, in normal times, politically unpalatable. Typically, they have a penchant for making headlines by supporting shocking, or at least strange or politically incorrect, points of view. They range from the benign and silly, like the Party for the Animals in the Netherlands, to the far more serious,  such as the right-wing National Front in France. These parties are often given the label “far right” or “far left”, and are not considered governing material but rather the parties of fringe ideologues.

The tier system has held together quite well in Europe, with elections for the past fifty years generally following the pattern that a tier-1 party will always be in power on its own, or in some form of coalition. This has ensured a certain level of stability and predictability – much like what Americans have become  used to in the US. But the financial hardships of recent times has threatened the system and seemingly caused European politics to embark on to uncertain waters.

Recent polls show that tier-1 parties are finding themselves under increasing threat from upstart, populist political movements which, until recently, you might have considered to be part of the tier-3 crazies. Consider, for example, Greece, which recently had its second election in two months,  resulting in a first place finish by the conservative New Democracy – a bona fides tier 1 party. But the real story of the election was whether the Greeks might actually turn everything upside down and bring to power the jeans-wearing,  anti-austerity radicals from the left, the so-called Syriza party. These fellows were as likely to be in power as they were to wear a tie – which they seem to find anathema – until recent events thrust them into the spotlight. The following report from Der Spiegel online tells the story:

“As Sunday’s election result shows, however, that population is deeply divided and uncertain. While New Democracy got around 30 percent of the vote, Alexis Tsipras’ left-wing Syriza got 27 percent — an increase of more than 10 percent since the May 6 election. That represents massive support for an alliance that won just 4.6 percent of the vote in the last ‘normal’ election in October 2009.”

From 4.6 % to second place finish is a scenario that tier-3 parties could only dream of before the start of the financial crisis. But it would seem the financial meltdown that began in 2008 has caused voters to reconsider their loyalties and opened the door to unpredictable politics all over Europe, not just Greece.

Take the Netherlands, where the political landscape has undergone radical change since the last election when the long ruling tier-1 party, the Christian Democratic Appeal, suffered a massive loss of support, as has its perennial challenger from the left, the Party for the Workers. These two tier-1 political titans now, as the Netherlands heads towards elections in September, find themselves lagging in the polls behind the tier-3 Socialist Party ( led by an unreconstructed Maoist ) on the far left, and the party of Geert Wilders, the anti-Islamic populist on the far right.

Moving to Italy and France, we see further examples of this trend. The following excerpt from Business AM, an English news portal, reports on the rise of an upstart tier-3 party in Italy:

“A political maverick, Grillo has mainly been campaigning for a clean-up of Italian politics. But he has also suggested that Italy should consider dropping the euro while still remaining a member of the EU, and write off at least part of its gigantic public debt. Despite having very little cash to fund its campaign, the Five Star movement did incredibly well in the latest mayoral elections, and is polling at 20 per cent – leading Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party by several percentage points.”

In France, the story focuses on the rise of the National Front, a party that has never held power and whose founder was a staunch critic of immigrant communities and known to question the occurrence of the Holocaust. Here too we see that frustration with the status quo has led to a surge in support for this party. In the most recent election this past weekend, for the first time in 30 years, National Front candidates were voted into the parliament. Previously, in the first round of the  French Presidential election in April, National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen attained the largest share of the national vote ever achieved by her party, turning in a strong third place finish.

One could go on to cite further examples of where the political status quo has been disrupted as of late in Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and other European states, but what is evident throughout is that the uncertain economic times and resultant financial austerity in Europe, has caused voters to seek out ways of expressing their anger and frustration. The rise of the protest vote in lieu of the economic downturn is clearly contributing to the unusual political trends across the continent. For how long this upheaval will last, and if and when, European politics will return to the status quo, are  questions that appear to be tied to the duration of the financial downturn. When prosperity returns, one may see the return of the dominance of the tier-1 again, but until then,  Europe seems set for a course of political fragmentation and instability.

Eye on Europe

 

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