The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: Italy

Developments in Sierra Leone, and the quote of the day

by fpman

You may remember that towards the end of February, as we have reported here, Sierra Leone’s Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana voluntarily went into quarantine for twenty-one days after one of his bodyguards died of Ebola. Now it seems that there may have been more to the decision than mere precaution, or at the very least the consequences are proving more complex.

There is apparently a power struggle in the background. VP Sam-Sumana was expelled last week from the ruling All People’s Congress Party for allegedly “orchestrating political violence,” and also for supposedly untrue statements about himself. He faces the prospect of impeachment in the near future. A superficial look at the affair seems to suggest that what is happening at the moment is that his political opponents are happy to use his isolation in quarantine against him, trying to unseat him.

It is not unprecedented for epidemics to have far-reaching political implications as this whole book may make clear:

And so, in conclusion, here is a somewhat random example from the above book of the many power struggles throughout history that were affected by epidemics, from page 46, for a broader perspective — our quote of the day:

“In northern Italy, the Duke of Mantua and his only son succumbed to smallpox in December 1612. Abruptly ending the male line of succession of the Gonzaga family, this led directly to the War of the Mantuan Succession between Austria and France.”

A small correction may be due here: the male line of succession did not completely end in 1612 but given that Francesco IV Gonzaga (the son of Vincenzo I Gonzaga) did not have a male heir, his brother Ferdinando I had to take over from him. The problems, and the war of succession, came when eventually Ferdinando I and the third brother, Vincenzo II died without a son, too.

The point that epidemics and political instability make for an explosive combination should not be lost, though.

Question of the day: where, within one’s network of human contacts, is there place for a Gazprom lobbyist?

by fpman

Contrary to what some people may think, in the title I am asking an open question, having just read this article from RFE/RL. It concerns primarily decision-makers, of course, and not the ordinary person.

The article points out that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (“EU foreign policy chief”) Federica Mogherini has a spokeswoman, Catherine Ray, who has a husband, Thomas Barros-Tastets, who in turn happens to be working for a company called G+ which has Gazprom among its major clients (G+ deals with Gazprom in the value of 300,000 to 350,000 Euros per annum).

Does this help Gazprom? Is it significant related to this that Federica Mogherini, before she took office, was thought by some to be too understanding towards Russia?

One obvious question that has to be asked is if Thomas Barros-Tastets’ work was kept a secret throughout the vetting process which saw wife Catherine get the job of spokesperson. And the answer is apparently it wasn’t. Mogherini as well as others knew.

Of course, for her part, Mogherini then takes even more responsibility for this, in case there’s anything wrong with this. Which is not easy to tell.

Some in the Commission have what seems to them an easy answer. Margaritis Schinas, the chief spokesman for the European Commission says:

“(Catherine) Ray is charged with speaking on Africa, Latin America, and Gulf countries. Fellow foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic speaks for Mogherini on European affairs, including Russia. We therefore do not believe there is a potential conflict of interest with…Ray’s duties at the commission.”

While we cannot determine the answer to the above questions really (especially to the question of whether Catherine Ray’s position helps Gazprom), we can safely tell that Margaritis Schinas is using a flawed argument above. Gazprom, which used to be the Soviet Ministry of Gas back in the day, does not have interests only related to Russia but as a profit-making venture and as a State-Owned Enterprise (majority-owned by the Russian state) it has complex economic and political interests related to almost every continent, the Gulf countries being the most obvious example of this. So in the end this is still kinda interesting.