Judge drags Jean-Claude Juncker into scandal over wiretapping

EC president’s former staff face criminal inquiry

Bruno Waterfield, Brussels

December 13 2017, 12:01am, The Times

 

The president of the European Commission is embroiled in a new criminal investigation into claims that “tampered” evidence misled an inquiry into phone-tapping.

Jean-Claude Juncker faces accusations that his officials presented inaccurate information under oath in a case involving an alleged illegal wiretap more than ten years ago when he was prime minister of Luxembourg.

The Times has learnt that last week, as Mr Juncker met Theresa May for Brexit talks in Brussels, a Luxembourg judge opened a criminal inquiry into whether officials working for Mr Juncker were responsible for an incomplete transcript of a covertly recorded conversation, which may have disguised his alleged role in phone-tapping.

The inquiry means that Mr Juncker, 63, risks being caught up in a scandal that threatens his reputation at a critical time for the EU. Marco Mille, former director of the Luxembourg intelligence service, who is on trial for illegal phone-tapping, said: “The falsification of evidence and the deliberate deception of parliament, the judiciary and, ultimately, the public are an unbearable attack on the rule of law.”

Last Monday Eric Schammo, an investigating judge, began an inquiry into whether officials working for Mr Juncker falsified key evidence for a parliamentary and then judicial investigation in 2012 and 2013. At the time Mr Juncker was fighting for his political future over a wider scandal including the activities of his country’s spies. He had vociferously denied involvement in their activities, especially wiretapping.

At the centre of the allegations is the transcript of a conversation, taped on a recorder disguised as a wristwatch, between Mr Mille and Mr Juncker in January 2007. It is a central piece of evidence in the criminal case brought against three former intelligence officials, including Mr Mille, over telephone eavesdropping on Loris Mariotto, who was making bizarre claims linking the family of Luxembourg’s Grand Duke to terrorist attacks in the 1980s.

The version of the transcript used in the parliamentary investigation, resulting in criminal charges against the three men, omits words that might indicate that Mr Juncker had authorised the wiretap on Mr Mariotto.

In one version, presented to a parliamentary scrutiny meeting in 2012, elements of the conversation were omitted. In another version, now accepted as complete, Mr Juncker replied on two occasions with “yes” or the affirmative “mhm” — interpreted by investigators as meaning that he understood and agreed with what Mr Mille was saying — when the former spy chief reported to him on a lack of progress after two days of phone- tapping and his potential problem explaining the interceptions to judges.

At one point, in words that were omitted from evidence to the 2012 and 2013 investigations, Mr Juncker says “we were listening”, indicating that he knew about the phone-tapping. As prime minister, Mr Juncker could have given permission for the phone taps but denied doing so. The changes to the transcript used as evidence in the investigation leading to criminal charges against the three men were discovered when thousands of files of prosecution documents were given to the defence last month.

Mr Mille, former director of the Service de Renseignement de l’État Luxembourgeois (SREL) , and now head of security at the German electrical giant Siemens, described the omissions as a “scandalous manipulation”. His complaint of “falsification” by persons unknown in the government led to a criminal investigation being opened on December 4. “It is not known to us who arranged for the ‘falsification’. It is not insignificant answering this question to ask who benefited from it,” he said.

His trial was suspended on November 21 after Mr Juncker told the Luxembourg court he would be unable to face cross-examination as a witness. The trial was postponed on same day that Mr Mille lodged a criminal complaint over omissions in the transcript.

Mr Juncker, under oath as a witness in the now postponed trial, told Ernest Nilles, the investigating magistrate, in May 2015 that “there was definitely no permission for a full phone-tapping operation”. The judge confronted Mr Juncker with the unaltered transcript, which no one had noticed was different from the one used in the 2012-13 inquiry, and said: “The conversation is clearly about a phone-tapping operation over a period of two days.” Mr Juncker denied it and said he had “the impression of a great deal of confusion” from the words used.

According to the judicial witness examination report, Mr Juncker said he could not recall phone conversations with his intelligence chief during which Mr Mille says he authorised an “urgent procedure” wiretap. The European Commission would not discuss “alleged comments or alleged documents”.

Frank Schneider, the former head of SREL operations and a defendant in the trial, expressed anger over Mr Juncker’s absence from a hearing scheduled for Tuesday last week, leading to the suspension of proceedings. “One would think that Juncker would take this seriously. It is, after all, something that caused him to resign his government in 2013 requiring early elections,” he said. “I am certain that if Juncker can come to Luxembourg to speak to students . . . about the future of Europe as he did in October this year, he could have found two hours during one of the eight proposed dates . . . to attend court.”

A commission spokesman said: “He is very willing to testify as a witness but it happens that he is also president of the EC, so we have to find a date that matches his institutional obligations.”

 

Commentaires sur le dernier sondage de YouGov

Bernard Owen, Docteur en Science Politique Panthéon Sorbonne Université Paris 1

Il s’agit du sondage YouGov, dans une première partie, concernant Laurent Wauquiez, candidat à l’élection du Président du Parti Les Républicains. Comme tendance, il se situe entre Nicolas Sarkozy et Marine Le Pen. Nous allons aborder la question différemment.

Le Parti Les Républicains avait un excellent chef : François Fillon (il devrait actuellement être élu Président de la République). Malheureusement, la loi française concernant les emplois des attachés parlementaires a plombé toute la dernière campagne présidentielle. Personne n’a réagi, ni les législateurs, ni les magistrats, qui ont fait preuve d’une passivité incroyable face à une loi mal écrite. Nous aurions dû suivre l’exemple de l’Union Européenne ou des Etats Unis, que nous avions évoqué auparavant.

Il est important de s’intéresser à l’élection du chef du Parti Les Républicains, car une démocratie doit posséder un bipartisme, si possible  de longue durée. Les nouveautés peuvent mener à tout sort d’événements, parfois positifs, parfois désastreux.

Abordons le graphique YouGov qui pourra peut-être nous éclairer sur les opinions très contrastées de la vie politique française.

Evénements israélo-palestiniens, décembre 2017

La grande Mosquée de Jérusalem.

Bernard Owen

Il est difficile de comprendre ou de saisir la situation palestino-israélienne sans avoir travaillé d’une façon ou d’une autre au Moyen Orient.

Lors d’une de mes missions, mon chauffeur parlant fort bien l’anglais, me raconta sa propre situation. Il avait quitté Israël pour s’installer au Koweït, après la prise en main des Américains, car le travail ne manquait pas.

La défaite de Sadam Hussein a mené à l’expulsion des Palestiniens, qui s’y étaient installés. Cette petite anecdote pourrait illustrer la bienfaisance à laquelle on pourrait s’attendre entre Palestiniens.

Un autre exemple : J’avais des questions précises à poser lors d’une réunion entre Palestiniens et Israéliens à Jéricho (ville proche de Jérusalem). Au cours du trajet, j’ai fait le touriste. La zone traversée était surprenante, une belle route bien entretenue, aucune habitation en dehors de celles groupées sur les hauteurs, à l’allure de châteaux-forts d’architecture moderne. De belles et grandes voitures circulaient sur la route. Après quelques kilomètres, nous arrivâmes aux abords de la ville de Jéricho et là mon étonnement fut grand de remarquer partout des hommes armés, en haut, en bas, à droite, à gauche. J’ai déjà rencontré des frontières bien gardées, mais à ce point non. La voiture nous déposa à l’endroit de la réunion où avait lieu l’accord qui fut quasi immédiat. Je pense que ce travail fut utile.

En quelques jours, l’on avait perçu que les oppositions pouvaient venir de partout, des ennemis mais aussi des amis.

Il faut avoir travaillé en Israël pour le comprendre.

Ci-dessous un article du New York Times sur le fait que la plupart d’anciens ambassadeurs américains en Israël sont en désaccord avec la décision du Président Trump concernant Jérusalem.

MIDDLE EAST

Nearly Every Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Disagrees With Trump’s Jerusalem Decision

By SEWELL CHANDEC. 7, 2017

President Trump declared recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Here’s why that’s so fraught.

By CAMILLA SCHICK on Publish DateDecember 5,

All but two of 11 former United States ambassadors to Israel contacted by The New York Times after President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital thought the plan was wrongheaded, dangerous or deeply flawed.

The 11 ex-envoys all closely followed Mr. Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, in which he also set in motion a plan to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Even those who agreed that Mr. Trump was recognizing the reality on the ground disagreed with his approach — making a major diplomatic concession without any evident gain in return.

One of the exceptions was Ogden R. Reid, a former congressman who was the ambassador from 1959 to 1961, at the end of the Eisenhower administration. “I think it’s the right decision,” he said. “Not a lot more to say.”

The other exception was Edward S. Walker Jr., who was ambassador from 1997 to 1999, under President Bill Clinton. “I think it’s about time,” he said. “We’ve been remiss in not recognizing realities as they are. We all know Israel has a capital, it’s called Jerusalem, and over my 35 years of service in the Middle East no one ever questioned that.”

What about the departure from United States policy since 1948 — that the final status of Jerusalem is a matter for negotiation between the Israelis and Palestinians — and the condemnation from the international community?

Continue reading the main story

“It’s really a question of what are the lines, the borders, to be drawn around the state of Israel and the ultimate state of Palestine,” Mr. Walker said. “Nothing in what the president has said precludes the negotiation of a settlement of this issue.”

That was not the prevailing view. More typical was the perspective of Daniel C. Kurtzer, who was the ambassador from 2001 to 2005, under President George W. Bush.

“There are many downsides, both diplomatically and in terms of the Middle East peace process, and no upside,” Mr. Kurtzer said. “We are isolated internationally once again — except for the Israeli government, which supports this — and we are taking ourselves out of the role the president says he wants to play as a peace broker.”

What of the argument that the peace process, with the goal of a two-state political solution, was dormant, and needed to be shaken up?

“The fact that the process is moribund calls for a much more dramatic role,” he said. “It doesn’t call for the U.S. to lean over and adopt the position of one party and offer nothing to the other party.”

Richard H. Jones, who was ambassador from 2005 to 2009, also under Mr. Bush, warned that groups like Hamas and the Islamic State would exploit the issue to incite violence, and predicted that the Palestinian Authority would step up international efforts to boycott and condemn Israel.

“This is a risky move, which no doubt will cost lives in Israel and the region, particularly as Israeli settlers use it to justify accelerating their activity further,” he said in an email.

Several of the ambassadors were open to recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But they said that should happen as part of a broader strategy that would also require the Israelis to halt or slow settlement construction and that would recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Martin S. Indyk, who served as ambassador twice, both times during Bill Clinton’s presidency, proposed just such a deal in an Op-Ed essay in The New York Times this year, weeks before Mr. Trump was sworn in.

“Not surprisingly, President Trump didn’t follow my advice to couple his move on Jerusalem with a diplomatic initiative,” Mr. Indyk said on Thursday. “Instead, he tried to limit the damage by avoiding any geographic definition of the capital that he is officially recognizing. Unfortunately, that nuance will be lost on all sides.”

“My motivation was to incentivize Israel’s participation in the Madrid peace talks,” he said, referring to negotiations in 1991 that helped give momentum to what later became the Oslo process. He recalled that there was significant resistance to the proposal in the Bush administration, and that the idea was dropped.

“If he was going to make this announcement, it ought to be very, very carefully crafted so as to minimize a blowup,” he said, making clear he did not think Mr. Trump had succeeded.

William Caldwell Harrop, who was the ambassador from 1992 to 1993, called Mr. Trump’s decision “slightly reckless” and even “kind of a masochistic move” that might “undermine his own, repeatedly discussed, ‘great deal’ of bringing peace to the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Having decided to make his announcement, Mr. Trump could have been explicit that he would place the embassy in West Jerusalem, Mr. Harrop said.

“One has to be pessimistic,” he said after listening to Mr. Trump’s speech. “We’ll get, before long, more efforts by Palestinians to build up international recognition of the state of Palestine. Some form of intifada is very likely, and there will be more bloodshed.”

Edward P. Djerejian, who was the ambassador from 1993 to 1994, in the optimistic aftermath of the Oslo peace accords, also found Mr. Trump’s effort to thread the needle unsatisfying.

Mr. Trump portrayed his decision more as a recognition of on-the-ground reality than as a sharp change in policy, insisting that “the specific boundaries” of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem had yet to be settled.

he Consequences of Germany’s Mixed Electoral System

Bernard Owen

Amanda Taub (« Why Democracy Feels Like a Dangerous Game  » posted below) asks the wrong questions about German democracy.  The enquiry is welcome but our approach is different than hers.

I have been working on that question for years as it is the  subject of my Ph.D. degree thesis, which I obtained from Panthéon Sorbonne University.

 

Democracies do not just happen.  There are many elements to consider and, most importantly, the electoral ssystem which will decide whether the party that wins the election obtainsamajority of the seats in Parliament.

What surprised us is that the issue of electoral systems is never mentioned in the article, and, in particular, the mixed system that Germany uses to elect the Bundestag.

We usually write on politics for our French readers.  In professor Owen’s November 2013 article,  « Allemagne : que doit-on retenir en 2013 à partir des élections de 2009 et les autres ? »  he predicted the present difficulties of Chancellor Merkel in forming a government.

But we have also English-speaking readers. We have written a book about electoral systems that was published by Palgrave MacMillan.  It is entitled « Proportional Western Europe: The Failiure of Governance. »

In that « …Failure of Government », We explain the essential role of electoral systems in the formation of governments. We analyze them in a comparative manner and in their historical context.  It includes the French Fourth Republic, notoriously unstable, and the tragic German Weimar Republic.

In 19932 the use of different types of proportional represenation was understandable as little was known as to their effects.  But in 2017, 85 years after Hitler’s election Europeans, but not only, should try to understand the workings of proportional Representation.  Ferdinand A. Hermens, a German profesor  at Cologne University, who fled the Nazi takeover understood right away and wrote about the subject in America.

New York Times

Why Democracy Feels Like a Dangerous Game

The Interpreter

By AMANDA TAUB DEC. 1, 2017

For the past 18 months, political analysts have issued dire warnings about the likelihood that far-right parties could gain power and influence in elections. Then, when the parties merely broke historical records, rather than winning control of their government, those same analysts would breathe a sigh of relief.

But that repeated dance may have led us to overlook another, more subtle but possibly more systemic risk, present even if the far right is only a minority. The problem is that far-right parties may win seats in elections, but they end up having little power because mainstream parties shut them out. This, in turn, angers their supporters, fueling complaints that the system is rigged.

And that worry seems pressing in light of the struggle by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to build a workable coalition government after her party again failed to win a majority.

Ms. Merkel is facing a daunting choice. She can continue her efforts to create a coalition, even though all potential parties have so far been unwilling. If those attempts fail, Ms. Merkel has signaled that she would prefer new elections over her other option of forming a minority government.

Stated another way, she must decide whether to rely on voters or on institutions.

Those are the two most fundamental building blocks of democracy. But in Germany, as in much of the rest of the West right now, both seem increasingly unreliable.

The result is that democracy now feels like a dangerous game. And even Ms. Merkel, arguably the Western leader who plays it best, has not figured out how to win.

Democracy … Except Some Votes Don’t Really Count

As the far right rises across Europe, mainstream parties, seeing an existential threat to liberal democracy, have searched for ways to contain its influence. The solution that major European powers like France and Germany have settled on — and that will be a component of any solution to Ms. Merkel’s current dilemma — is a so-called cordon sanitaire against the far right.

The term, which roughly translated means “quarantine” in French, means sealing off the far right from any power or influence, no matter how many votes it wins. Mainstream parties will not allow the far right into political coalitions or work with it on joint legislation. In Germany’s case, that means an absolute refusal to allow the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, into any governing coalition. The party recently won seats in Germany’s national legislature for the first time.

In the short term, such policies have effectively limited the influence of both longstanding far-right parties like the National Front in France and insurgent upstarts like the AfD. To the many politicians and citizens who fear what might happen if the far right were to exercise real power, that feels like an important victory.

But in the longer term, it turns out to have unintended side effects, making the underlying problems worse — with potentially serious consequences for democracy.

David Art, a professor at Tufts University who studies the European far right, said the mismatch between the votes the far right receives and the influence it wields was one of the “greatest untold stories” of far-right politics.

Policies devised to lock the far right out of power mean far-right voters “have gotten extremely little bang for their buck,” Professor Art said. “You have somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the European electorate casting its votes for parties that are credibly shut out.”

And shutting a large populist party out of power for years has consequences for the political system itself, not just for that party and its voters.

As the far right’s share of the vote grows, that increases pressure on mainstream parties to cooperate with each other to present a united front and contain the threat. This can mean forming a grand coalition, in which the two largest parties join together despite their political differences.

The result, Professor Art said, is that mainstream politics can start to look like an elite cartel, in which establishment parties must maintain consensus to govern, and so are limited to an increasingly narrow lane of policy options regardless of what voters demand or issues require.

 

Réponse à l’IFOP

Bernard Owen

Nous nous permettons de répondre à votre intitulé (ELABE-L’Express, sondage publié le 29/2017) « méthodologie ». Nous n’avons nullement critiqué vos méthodes de travail. Notre texte était politique et non technique.

Il s’agissait de ne pas interroger la France sur son opinion concernant notre Président, qui parait, mois après mois, plus mauvaise mais d’interroger l’opinion sur la personne qui pourrait être opposé à notre Président en raison de l’acharnement de la justice sur la personne appréciée au delà de nos frontières, François Fillon.

 

Les sondages!!!

Bernard Owen

L’on va procéder à l’élection du directeur du parti Les Républicains. L’être humain peut se montrer merveilleux et mesquin. La chute régulière de la cote de popularité de notre Président et de son gouvernement mènent à chercher une autre unité de compte.

En admettant que notre Président soit de gauche l’interrogation des sondages se porteront sur le favori à la élection du président du parti de droite; Les Républicains. Selon le e sondage ELABE – l’Express (publié le 29/11/2017), les Français sont très négatifs à propos des Républicains. 77% considèrent qu’il ne rapportera pas du renouvellement des idées.  73% ne considèrent pas qu’il y aura de renouvellement des personnalités. En revanche, 74% des sympathisants de LR pensent qu’il peut reconquérir le pouvoir (contre 36% de la moyenne des Français).

Le sondage interroge les Français sur le candidat donné vainqueur à la présidence des Républicains, Laurent Waquiez. On le trouve

Autoritaire:  56%

Dynamique:  53%

Veut vraiment changer les choses:  32%

Qu’il possède des qualités pour être Président:  21%

Vive les sondages qui peuvent retourner la situation. Naturellement, l’acharnement sur François Fillon a déjà fait beaucoup de tort à notre démocratie.