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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Should it be “Three strikes, you’re out” for the First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans?

The Dutch social-democrat politician Frans Timmermans, the eloquent and multilingual ‘First Vice President of the European Commission’ and the European Commissioner for ‘Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights’ is an intelligent man and a thoroughbred politician with many years of experience in The Netherlands and Europe. He has always been a diplomatic powerhouse, with many, many skills and an excellent understanding of English, French and German, but also f.i. the Russian language.

On the other hand, Frans Timmermans is also a very vain and inconsiderate man, who seemingly does anything to remain in the spotlights. And during the last two years it seems that he overplayed his diplomatic hand on a number of high-brow occassions. In fact: on so many occasions and in such serious matters, that I start to wonder whether a certain part of American criminal law should not apply to him, in his current career?

Timmermans started his “series of shame” with a statement in his speech before the Security Council of the United Nations, in the aftermath of the brutal attack upon the MH17 airplane in Ukraine.
In this speech, Timmermans openly speculated in a pathetic way, full of claptrap and unproven assumptions, that some of the victims had been alive and fully conscious in the moments between the deadly strike with a BUK surface-to-air missile and their impact on earth:

How horrible must have been the final moments of their lives, when they knew the plane was going down. Did they lock hands with their loved ones, did they hold their children close to their hearts, did they look each other in the eyes, one final time, in an unarticulated goodbye? We will never know”.

Later Timmermans admitted in a talkshow, broadcasted on Dutch national television, that he based this highly speculatory and sensationalist part of his UNSC speech  upon the fact “that one of the Australian victims had been found with an oxygen mask upon his mouth”. This particular circumstance was not only unproven – thus speculative – and factually wrong, but it also came as a shock to the relatives of the Dutch passengers, who were not informed of this news before.

The official report by the Dutch Safety Board, created after the MH17 attack, does claim that the oxygen masks of the airplane had indeed been deployed – probably after the air pressure had dropped dramatically due to the large holes created by the rocket shrapnel in the fusillage – and one of the oxygen masks had been found ‘strapped upon the neck and throat of a passenger’. Nevertheless, there has never been any solid proof that this particular passenger had indeed consciously used the oxygen mask during his last moments and still lived through his deadly drop to earth. The official report:

During the victim identification process in The Netherlands, one passenger was found with an emergency oxygen mask [...]. The strap was around the passengers neck and the mask was around the throat. No information was available about how this passenger was found at the wreckage site. The NFI examined the mask for biological traces and performed DNA tests. No DNA profiles could be obtained from the five samples taken. Therefore DNA analysis was not possible. The lack of DNA material can be explained by the mask having been left outside for a long time at high temperatures.

There were no usable fingerprints found on the mask. The high temperatures may have caused the quality of fingerprints on the mask to deteriorate.

This circumstance made that the part of Timmermans’ speech about “loved ones saying farewell to each other during their final moments” seemed rather “a figment of his imagination” than a just statement based upon sound investigations. Very human and fully understandable, but deadly for the credibility of this seasoned and professional political official, in such an explosive and potentially hazardous investigation.

Strike One!

In January of this year 2016, Eurocommissioner Timmermans stated out of the blue that “Roughly sixty percent of the refugees entering the EU could be considered economic refugees” – or in a popular expression among populists: “Fortune seekers”:

Frans Timmermans, who is the commission’s first vice president, told the broadcaster in an interview: ‘More than half of the people now coming to Europe come from countries where you can assume they have no reason whatsoever to ask for refugee status. More than half, 60%.’ In the main they are people from Morocco and Tunisia who want to travel to Europe via Turkey, NOS quoted him as saying. Timmermans bases his claim on the latest figures from European border agency Frontex which have not yet been officially published.

I – and with me some other people – made minced meat of this quite populist statement by Frans Timmermans, based on the same Frontex data, that Timmermans said to have quoted:

Using this available data of Frontex over 2015, I made a calculation based upon the mentioned countries in the Frontex data. In this calculation, next to Syria, Iraq and Eritrea as obvious war-struck countries, I also reckoned Nigeria and Afghanistan to be zones of war / massive public unrest. This, due to the extremely unstable situation in these countries with respectively Boko Haram and the Taliban planning and executing massive, bloody attacks on civillians. Therefore I consider people fleeing these countries as refugees of war and not as economic refugees.

In Q1 of 2015 24,000 of the 62,000 refugees came from countries that I consider as war-zones, or 39%. In other words: 61% of refugees can be considered economic refugees, which is in line with Timmermans’ statement.

However, in Q2 of 2015, more than 116,000 of the 170,000 refugees (or 68%) were refugees of war zones, of a total number of refugees that was three times as high as in Q1. In Q2 Timmermans’ statement was obviously not true.

And in Q3 of 2015 a staggering 450,000 of 617,000 (!) refugees were refugees of war zones, or 73%. Only 27% can be considered as economic refugees. This sheds a very unfavourable light on Timmermans’ statement.

Russia Today, the Russian international TV-station, claimed that 1 in 3 of Syrian refugees had in fact a fake Syrian passport and came in reality from another country.

Although I show this fact from the point of transparency, I personally doubt whether this can be true at all. This would mean that in Q3 alone more than 100,000 people would have obtained a fake Syrian passport (“just consider the sheer numbers of fake Syrian passports being around” – EL) in order to cross the European borders as fake Syrians. And it would mean that the falsifications would be so perfect that the Frontex officers would not be able to recognize those, which again seems very implausible.

However, even when this Russia Today news would be true indeed, the number of war refugees for Q3 would still be around 56%, which is still much, much higher than the 40% that Frans Timmermans claimed.

Again Frans Timmermans had been caught in making a statement full of claptrap and unsound data, obviously trying to put himself back in the spotlights again, for seemingly no other reason than boosting his own visibility and ego.

Strike Two!

The latest episode in this unfortunate series about the First Vice President of the European Commission came last Tuesday (November 15, 2016), when Frans Timmermans stated that “there were more and more indications that the Turkish religious leader Fettulah Gülen was indeed involved in the coup d’etat against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of July, 2016”.

According to Timmermans’ initial statement, he had based this accusation upon the results of investigations coming from the American intelligence community, even though a number of American institutions, when asked, denied this fact. Later, Timmermans diluted his initial statement, by telling he had received some signals, without disclosing who or which was the source of these ‘signals’. The Dutch newspaper Tubantia said this about Timmermans’ statement:

In an interview with the Flemish weekly magazine ‘Knack’, European Commissioner Frans Timmermans states to see ‘more and more indications’ for the actual involvement of the Gülen movement with the coup d’etat [against Turkish president Erdoğan] in Turkey, happening in July 2016. He is referring to ‘American research’. However, in the United States nobody knows what Eurocommissioner Timmermans is talking about. His statement provokes many surprised reactions among European officials.

The spokeswoman  of the European ‘Secretary of State’ Federoca Mogherini is “absolutely not amused” and the [Dutch] Second Chamber of Parliament asks upon which information this statement by Timmermans is based. When asked by Tubantia, the spokeswoman of Timmermans reacts on his behalf: “Timmermans was just speaking about indications which he saw and heard in the numerous diplomatic contacts that he has. Nothing more and nothing less”. Further she refused to comment.

Again Eurocommissioner Frans Timmermans seems to be lured – by his vanity and his deep-felt desire to stand in the spotlights – into making a statement, which he would better keep to himself, until he can present it, accompanied by sound evidence. By doing so once again, he did not only make unfounded accusations against the Gülen movement, seemingly based on hearsay and speculation, but he might put large groups of people inside and outside Turkey in jeopardy. Tubantia quotes a pundit with respect to Turkey, Joost Lagendijk:

Joost Lagendijk thinks that Timmermans’ statements are straightaway dangerous: “This is a highly sensitive subject. When you make such bold statements, based upon research that you allegedly know and the rest of the world doesn’t, this does not seem very sensible. I am surprised that someone in his position puts a spark in the powder keg like this”.

And Elsevier, a Dutch weekly magazine, states with respect to this event:

The Second Chamber reacts very surprised. “Why would Timmermans put the heat on in Turkey without any form of proof and in the middle of what seems to be a witch hunt”, according to D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma on Twitter. Also MP Joël Voordewind of the ChristenUnie states that Timmermans should supply sound proof when he makes such statements. Chief editor Mehmet Cerit of Zaman reacts outraged: “Timmermans does not understand how harmful his statements can be. Now that things are easing up a little, he is putting out the fire with gasoline”. According to him ‘idiots’ can find affirmation and motivation in the statements of the First Vice President of the European Commision, to threaten, suppress or exclude others.

The painful truth is that Timmermans is again ‘caught with his pants down’, not learning any of the valuable lessons from the earlier mishaps that he made during the last two years.

Again Timmermans made a statement – seemingly out of vanity and an urge for public attention – that is either wrong and even untrue or ( at best ) based upon information that is not (yet) evidence-based and should not be shared with the general public until it is, as it can harm innocent people.

And again Frans Timmermans should have known better than doing so.

Strike Three!

In 28 states in the United States of America, there is some kind of the so-called Three Strikes Law.

This laws subscribes that habitual offenders of serious, but not lethal crimes, after being caught three times, should get a much harsher punishment than the crime itself should render under normal circumstances. In this way, these states want to protect society against such habitual offenders.

Although I am adamantly against such harsh regulation in criminal law and I am a strong advocate of reintegration and resocialization of ex-convicts, at the same time I am haunted by a sneaky suspicion that this will not be Frans Timmermans’ last mishap in the international diplomatic traffic, if nothing dramatically changes in his conduct.

It seems to these eyes that Timmermans’ ego is basically standing in the way of the required execution of his job. A job that should be in the interest of the whole EU and all of its citizens and should not act as a billboard for his personality and personal fame. 

Therefore I would like to ask: ‘Should it be “Three strikes, you’re out” for the First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans?’. Well, should it?!

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