Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Europe & EU 2014
Sarko is back
The ex-president retakes control of his party, but the presidential elections are another matter
In a message posted on his Facebook page after results came through, Mr Sarkozy called his election a “new start” for the party, and urged the centre-right to unite behind him. A sense of unity has eluded the UMP ever since Mr Sarkozy lost his presidential re-election bid in 2012 to François Hollande and vowed to withdraw from public life. The party has spent most of the time since then fighting internally, leaving the opposition to Mr Hollande open to the populist National Front. The National Front placed first in the European Parliament’s elections in May; its leader, Marine Le Pen, was re-elected party boss on November 30th with a Soviet-style 100% of the vote.
If the UMP opens its primary to non-party members, however, as the Socialists did in 2011 (drawing over 2.6m voters), then the result could be much closer. Both Mr Juppé and Mr Fillon are soft-right candidates who appeal to centrist voters, and they will argue forcefully for a wider vote. The same Ifop poll in November, taken before the UMP leadership ballot, made Mr Juppé the favourite among French voters as a whole, centrists and leftists included.
Finland feeling vulnerable amid Russian provocations
(WaPost) peaceable Finland has long gone out of its way to avoid prodding the nuclear-armed bear next door.
But now the bear is provoking Finland, repeatedly guiding military planes into Finnish airspace and deploying submarines and helicopters to chase after Finnish research vessels in international waters.
The incidents are part of a pattern of aggressive Russian behavior that has radiated across Europe but that has been especially unnerving for countries such as Finland that live outside the protective bubble of NATO.
Putin’s Reach: Merkel Concerned about Russian Influence in the Balkans
(Spiegel)Berlin has begun to see Moscow as an adversary rather than as a potential partner. The German government is concerned about efforts by Russian President Vladimir Putin to increase his influence in the Balkans. Stopping him, however, could prove difficult.
From the perspective of Berlin, Russia has gone from being a difficult partner to being an adversary within just one year. The effort launched in 2008 to tighten cooperation on a number of issues, one in which German leaders placed a great deal of hope, would seem to have come to an irrevocable end. Instead, Berlin is now discussing ways in which it might be able to slow down Russia’s expansionary drive — particularly in the Balkans, a region in which some states are not entirely stable. … Cold War recipes are coming back into fashion. It is time to begin thinking about a new “containment strategy,” says one high-ranking diplomat. The reference is to the concept for curbing Soviet power that was first sketched out in a famous telegram sent in February 1946 by then-US Ambassador to Moscow George Kennan.
Wake Up, Europe
It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated. Where there is a will, there is a way.
(New York review of Books) Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence. Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008.
The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term.
Swedish ‘Cold War’ thriller exposes Baltic Sea nerves over Russia
(Reuters) Growing tensions since the Ukraine crisis have already caused Sweden and Finland, both avowedly neutral before joining the EU in 1994, to openly discuss NATO membership.
Sweden’s own military questioned its ability to defend itself for more than a week against a Russian attack after NATO warplanes were scrambled last year to meet Russian bombers rehearsing a bomb run on Sweden. …
Russia has long seen the Baltic as part of its sphere of influence, and still smarts at the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania entering NATO and the EU. Finland also reached accommodations with the Soviet Union for decades.
Lithuania suspected a link between the submarine incident and a massive floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal that is due to sail to Lithuania from Denmark this week.
Named Independence, the terminal is intended to reduce the Baltic region’s dependence on Russian energy. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius called the timing of the Swedish search a “weird coincidence”.
Estonia said on Monday that it was boosting surveillance around the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa islands — a potential resupply route from the West in the event of conflict with Russia to the east.
One thing that has changed since the Cold War is Sweden’s preparedness after years of defence cutbacks. Some observers say the navy lacks the capability to hunt and destroy submarines in its home waters after scrapping anti-submarine helicopters.
The EU’s Wavering Over Russia
(Carnegie Europe) For an organization that aspires to have regional or even global ambitions, the EU has played an insignificant role in helping resolve the Ukraine crisis.
The union has ceded responsibility for the crisis to the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia. These leaders first discussed Ukraine during World War II commemorations in Normandy in July. They have chosen to continue this four-way dialogue. … Poland is notably absent from the talks on Ukraine. Germany has sidelined Poland’s role, despite the extremely close ties the two countries have forged over the past several years. Not surprisingly, France and Russia didn’t object to Warsaw being relegated to the backseat. It’s as if Poland’s attempts to help develop the EU’s Eastern Partnership and, later, its efforts to mediate during this year’s antigovernment demonstrations in Kiev have been forgotten.
Nor are the EU institutions involved in any substantial way in the four-party discussions. That only confirms how the big member states call the shots over the EU’s foreign policy.
Anatole Kaletsky: An ‘atomic bomb’ is hovering over France’s economy
(Reuters Debate) A full-scale budget war between Paris and Berlin/Brussels looks inevitable, with catastrophic effects on the European economy and markets. But on closer inspection, this impending budget battle is no more lethal than the fiscal shadow-boxing in Washington last year.
To see what is really happening, we must understand the motivations of Merkel, Hollande and the new European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. All three share the same objective: to preserve the euro, not blow it up with an “atom bomb.” … [But] Merkel must prove to the German public that EU budget rules have been genuinely tightened. Juncker must show that his new European Commission, which takes over on Nov. 1, will be tougher than its predecessor in enforcing these rules. Yet both Berlin and Brussels must avoid humiliating Hollande.
Joseph Stiglitz: Europe’s Austerity Zombies
Austerity has failed. But its defenders are willing to claim victory on the basis of the weakest possible evidence: the economy is no longer collapsing, so austerity must be working! But if that is the benchmark, we could say that jumping off a cliff is the best way to get down from a mountain; after all, the descent has been stopped.
But every downturn comes to an end. Success should not be measured by the fact that recovery eventually occurs, but by how quickly it takes hold and how extensive the damage caused by the slump.
Viewed in these terms, austerity has been an utter and unmitigated disaster, which has become increasingly apparent as European Union economies once again face stagnation, if not a triple-dip recession, with unemployment persisting at record highs and per capita real (inflation-adjusted) GDP in many countries remaining below pre-recession levels. In even the best-performing economies, such as Germany, growth since the 2008 crisis has been so slow that, in any other circumstance, it would be rated as dismal.
These 8 places in Europe could be the next to try for independence
(WaPost) Given Europe’s complicated history and cultural diversity, the existence of independence-minded groups and regions is understandable. Even so, the sheer number of separatist movements in Europe may surprise you.
Some of these groups have transformed their desire for separation into successful political movements; others are operating at a far lower level. Some are more violent (even building their own tanks, as was the case in Northern Italy) than others (as in Bavaria, where beer seems to be the only weapon which is used).
Nicolas Sarkozy announces return to politics in France
Former president defeated by Hollande in 2012 expected to run as candidate to lead centre-right UMP in runup to 2017 poll
Just as it was an open secret that Sarkozy had no intention of remaining out of the political limelight, few are in any doubt that if he wins the UMP leadership vote, he will use the position as a springboard to stand against François Hollande in 2017.
Europe’s Juncker Revolution
(Project Syndicate) Before his appointment as EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker was pilloried as an old-school federalist who would do little to alter the status quo. But the new structure that he has imposed on the Commission implies a radical overhaul of how things are done in Brussels.
Up to now, a focus on who has been appointed to what post – in particular, the appointment of the relatively inexperienced Federica Mogherini as EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy – has overshadowed the Commission’s structural transformation. But individual commissioners are far less important than the trends that have caused the Commission to shift its priorities from enlargement and the internal market toward energy and monetary union
Nato to create high-readiness force to counter Russian threat
Spearhead force will be made up of around 4,000 troops with capacity to ‘travel light but strike hard’, according to Nato
(The Guardian) The spearhead force does not help with the immediate crisis in Ukraine, which is facing Russian incursions in the east and south of the country. But the force might have a deterrent effect if Russia was considering destabilising the Baltic states.
Since the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in March, Poland and other east European and Baltic state members of Nato have demanded the alliance take a more active and high-profile role in their defence. (Global Post) NATO faces limited options over Ukraine conflict
Failed Diplomacy: NATO Hardliners Push for Firmer Stance against Russia
(Spiegel) After months of failed telephone diplomacy between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, hardliners are gaining the upper hand in discussions over the appropriate response to Russia. They may soon prevail with demands that go far beyond new economic sanctions.
No one within the EU or NATO is accusing Merkel of failing, but at the NATO summit this week, Merkel is likely to face some tough questions. Like why NATO partners should continue a dialogue with a man who often doesn’t keep his word? And what happens if the constant tightening of sanctions doesn’t make any impression on the Kremlin?
The crisis has reached the point the chancellor wanted to avoid all costs — the point where military logic replaces diplomatic efforts. Putin appears to have gone even beyond this stage by allowing the deployment of Russian troops and their equipment into eastern Ukraine. Within NATO, pressure is growing on Merkel to change her approach.
Europe According to Draghi
Central bankers are often proud to be boring. Not Mario Draghi. Two years ago, in July 2012, Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, took everyone by surprise by announcing that he would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. The effect was dramatic. This August, he used the annual gathering of top central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to drop another bomb.
Draghi’s speech this time was more analytical but no less bold. …
Draghi broke three taboos at once. First, he based his reasoning on the heterodox notion of a policy mix combining monetary and fiscal measures. Second, he explicitly mentioned the aggregate fiscal stance, whereas Europe has always looked at the fiscal situation exclusively on a country-by-country basis. Third, his claim that preventing the ECB from acting as a lender of last resort imposes a high price – making governments vulnerable and reducing their fiscal space – contradicts the tenet that the central bank must not provide support to government borrowing.
The fact that Draghi chose to confront the orthodoxy at a moment when the ECB needs support for its own initiatives is indicative of his concern over the economic situation in the eurozone. His message is that the policy system as it currently works is not suited to the challenges that Europe faces, and that further policy and institutional changes are necessary.
Italy’s [Federica] Mogherini and Poland’s Tusk get top EU jobs
BBC Analysis: the choice of new leaders for two EU institutions was not just about responding in an appropriate way to the crisis in Ukraine.
There were several important issues of balance at stake.
One of the EU’s top jobs has gone to a woman. Another has gone, for the first time, to a politician from a former communist country in Eastern Europe.
There was also the need to balance appointments from the centre left and the centre right.
Now attention will turn to the rest of the portfolios on the next European Commission – announcements are expected to be made in about a week’s time by the incoming Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Several countries, including the UK, are pushing for high-profile economic jobs on the Commission. Some of them are bound to be disappointed.
Trying to define a new, reformed relationship with Britain will be one of the EU’s main tasks over the next few years.
EU leaders give Russia one week to scale back Ukraine intervention or face new sanctions
Despite tough rhetoric decrying Russia’s increasing military involvement in Ukraine, European Union leaders on Sunday stopped short of imposing new sanctions against Moscow right away.
Instead, the 28-nation bloc’s heads of state and government tasked their executive body to “urgently undertake preparatory work” for tougher economic sanctions, according to summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy
Donald Tusk: A Champion for Eastern Europe in a Leading Role at EU
Seasoned and Savvy Polish Politician Is Chosen to Drive the European Council’s Agenda
(WSJ) The European Council’s incoming president, Donald Tusk, is a seasoned politician who has been prime minister of Poland since 2007, one of the longest-serving national leaders on the body that steers the 28-nation European Union
At 57 years of age, Mr. Tusk has been active in domestic politics for most of his adult life, playing a minor role in the anticommunist Solidarity labor movement that helped usher in democracy in Poland in the 1980s and serving in various roles in the country’s parliament after the 1989 collapse of the Iron Curtain.
But it wasn’t until 2005, when he unsuccessfully ran for his nation’s presidency, that Mr. Tusk emerged as a political heavyweight, despite an election defeat. In 2007, his center-right Civic Platform party won national elections on a free-market platform, with Mr. Tusk emerging as prime minister. Four years later, he became the first premier in Poland’s recent history to be elected for a second term.
A skilled orator, he has managed to maneuver his way around political crises in Poland over the past seven years. On the international stage, he has gained recognition by his European peers for leading Poland through the Continent’s financial crisis. The country was the only European Union member to have avoided an economic contraction in 2009 after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Poland’s conservative opposition has frequently claimed Mr. Tusk is too accommodative of Russia and Germany. Mr. Tusk has disputed such claims, and during this year’s Russian-Ukrainian crisis he has been one of the EU’s most outspoken critics of the Kremlin.
Still, he is a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr. Tusk hails from an ethnic minority in the northern Polish region of Kashubia, in the former Polish-German borderland, while Ms. Merkel has said she has Polish ancestors.
Anne Applebaum: War in Europe is not a hysterical idea
(WaPost) In the past few days, Russian troops bearing the flag of a previously unknown country, Novorossiya, have marched across the border of southeastern Ukraine. The Russian Academy of Sciences recently announced it will publish a history of Novorossiya this autumn, presumably tracing its origins back to Catherine the Great. Various maps of Novorossiya are said to be circulating in Moscow.
… maybe Putin is too weak to do any of this, and maybe it’s just scare tactics, and maybe his oligarchs will stop him. But “Mein Kampf” also seemed hysterical to Western and German audiences in 1933. Stalin’s orders to “liquidate” whole classes and social groups within the Soviet Union would have seemed equally insane to us at the time, if we had been able to hear them. But Stalin kept to his word and carried out the threats, not because he was crazy but because he followed his own logic to its ultimate conclusions with such intense dedication — and because nobody stopped him. Right now, nobody is able to stop Putin, either. So is it hysterical to prepare for total war? Or is it naive not to do so?
A summer of violence is exposing Europe’s foreign policy weaknesses
Conflicts raging just outside its borders are challenging the EU’s focus on ‘soft power.’
(Global Post) European Union leaders have met 162 times since the bloc first began holding regular summits back in 1975, but this Saturday’s gathering will be their first-ever during the month of August.
The EU’s presidents and prime ministers are breaking their previously sacrosanct vacation month amid a summer of violence that has seen Russia foment bloody unrest in Ukraine; Islamist gangs sow terror from Nigeria to Iraq; and the deadliest upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in a decade. …
Europe’s failure to stem conflicts raging just outside its borders is calling into question the EU’s focus on “soft power,” centered on discreet diplomacy, economic incentives and in particular Europe’s own example of former enemies working together to build common prosperity.
Diplomats acknowledge the European model has been undermined by divisions laid bare during the euro zone’s debt crisis, and by the EU’s failure to prevent a localized problem in Greece from plunging the world’s largest economic bloc into prolonged recession.
“When we met with Putin then, when we met with the Brazilians, they had nothing but contempt for us,” says one senior official. “I’m sure our weakness over the euro encouraged Putin to think he could get away with what he’s doing in Ukraine.”
EU set to widen sanctions on Russia over Ukraine
Analysis by the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt
Europe’s leaders did not want to move to economic sanctions but they were moved by two considerations: the outrage at the way investigators have been blocked from access to the crash site of the downed plane and, secondly, the fact that Russia, since the incident, has been allowing heavy weapons across the border into Ukraine.
The calculation in Europe is that it had to act for its own credibility and that it may have to go further to ensure that President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle understand that their actions carry consequences.
How will Russia respond? Hard to say, although Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would not retaliate or “fall into hysterics”.
But – if all goes as expected – the EU will today take a significant step; that it has to risk some damage to its own economic interests in order to put pressure on President Putin and Russia. …
However, UK company British Petroleum, which owns nearly 20% of Russian state oil giant Rosneft, has warned that further sanctions against Russia could “adversely impact” its performance.
Broad Majority of Pro-EU Lawmakers Elect Juncker to Head Commission
New President Will Be First Not to Have Been Backed by All EU Leaders
(WSJ) To achieve his comfortable margin—which included votes from Socialist, centrist and some Green lawmakers—Mr. Juncker made promises designed to appeal to lawmakers from left to right.
The former Luxembourg prime minister, who also chaired meetings of euro-zone finance ministers, pledged to give countries more flexibility on cutting their budget deficits during times of economic turmoil. But he also stressed that existing rules on government spending wouldn’t be changed.
“We cannot spend money we don’t have,” he told lawmakers. He also said that he would look into creating a “fiscal capacity”—or centralized money-raising power—for the euro zone, once the currency union has set stricter rules on coordinating national economic policies.
He said he wanted to raise €300 billion ($408 billion) from public and private sources to boost growth, including by investing in energy and digital infrastructure, and conclude a free-trade and investment deal with the U.S.
However, he made concessions to the Socialists and the Green party by promising to make public all important documents linked to the talks and to ensure that European health, social and privacy standards wouldn’t be watered down. He also said he wouldn’t accept a procedure for settling investor disputes in that agreement that limited the jurisdiction of EU courts. (FT) Juncker vows to broaden EU capital markets — The former president of Luxembourg pledges to broaden Europe’s capital markets after being elected the European Commission’s new president
Europe ‘losing patience’ over Israeli settlement policy – EU envoy
(RT) The EU Ambassador to Israel has warned that a growing number of EU states are dissuading their citizens from doing business with companies registered in Israeli settlements; France, Italy and Spain have already joined the trend.
Ukraine Signs Trade Deal with the European Union
(Foreign Policy) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a trade deal with the European Union, called the Association Agreement. … The European Union also finalized similar deals Georgia and Moldova.
Russian Riddle: EU Can’t Agree on a Natural Gas Strategy
(Spiegel) European leaders agree that the Ukraine crisis has made natural gas supplies from Russia precarious. Yet they are divided over what to do about it. Poland wants a new European energy union, but others seem to be in no hurry.
The flame last Tuesday was immense, rising some 200 meters (650 feet) into the air out of the natural gas pipeline named Brotherhood in eastern Ukraine. What caused the explosion remains a mystery. But it showed with shocking immediacy just how vulnerable Europe’s energy supply has become as a result of the unrest in Ukraine.
A day before the explosion, Russian energy giant Gazprom had announced that it would only continue supplying Ukraine if the country paid for deliveries in advance. Because about half of Russian gas headed for Western Europe flows through Ukraine, European leaders now have a crucial topic to discuss at their summit this week in Brussels: Will deliveries to EU member states be affected?
Jan Fleischhauer: Europe’s Juncker Bond
Jean-Claude Juncker vehemently criticized German-imposed austerity measures during the euro crisis. By doing so, he gained support in a number of countries — especially those which would like to see the common currency zone degraded into a debt union.
(Spiegel|Opinion) Let’s be clear: Jean-Claude Juncker is no friend of Germany. More to the point, the man is only friendly to the Germans so long as they are willing to cover the debts of their neighbors without grumbling too loudly. But as soon as Berlin suggests that other countries first take a look at their own spending before asking for German help, Mr. Juncker becomes indignant. … Jean-Claude Juncker now wants to become European Commission president. The only person at the moment who has the power to stand between him and this goal is the German chancellor. On the flip side, support for the former Luxembourg prime minister is greatest in places that have the most to gain from his rise. So it’s worth recalling just how this man thinks — a man who is being peddled as the only obvious candidate by interested parties.
… Those still capable of distinguishing between Italian and German interests can only hope that the German chancellor will for once listen to the British and send Juncker packing with a resounding “nein”. Even if the rest of the world is pointing fingers at David Cameron right now, that doesn’t mean the English prime minister is wrong. On the contrary: In the case of the European Commission, we would be well advised to close ranks with London rather than with Rome and Luxembourg.
Obama deflects French pressure to intervene in BNP dispute
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama dismissed on Thursday any prospect that he might intervene to help BNP Paribas bank (BNPP.PA), which risks losing one of its most senior executives over U.S. allegations of sanctions busting.
New York banking regulator Benjamin Lawsky is pushing the French bank to sever ties with Chief Operating Officer Georges Chordron de Courcel as part of a settlement with U.S. authorities the allegations, according to a person familiar with the matter.
France’s largest listed bank would also need to pay penalties that may top $10 billion, sources have said, and temporarily halt parts of its business in America.
Spain: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced that King Juan Carlos, 76, will abdicate and pass the crown to his son, Crown Prince Felipe, who is 45. Juan Carlos has ruled since 1975 and presided over Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy. While he was popular for most of his tenure, recent years have seen anti-monarchy sentiment rising.
The Fall of King Juan Carlos
(The New Yorker) Nothing has been the same in Spain since the day, two years ago, when King Juan Carlos was revealed to have broken his hip on an elephant-hunting trip to Botswana, and was flown home to be treated at an exclusive clinic. Juan Carlos, who announced on Monday that he is abdicating the throne, was long revered for his role in vouchsafing Spain’s transition to democracy following the death, in 1975, of the country’s geriatric Fascist leader, Generalissimo Francisco Franco. In what was perhaps Carlos’s finest moment, he went on television, on February 23rd, 1981, to face down a right-wing military coup that was already under way; his address was seen as having saved Spain’s nascent democracy, earning him the gratitude and the affection of two generations of Spaniards. But all that was in the past, and the news about the elephant posed a number of problems for Juan Carlos, now in his seventies.
That the King was clueless enough to kill elephants for sport is embarrassing. (Who does that nowadays?) The news that the junket, complete with private jet, had been subsidized by a Syrian-born Saudi businessman was also unpleasant. Then it emerged that the King had been on the trip with a woman who was not Queen Sofia, and the Spanish press reported that the woman, a German aristocrat, was his mistress. (She has denied it.) There were also reports that Sofia and Carlos’s marriage existed principally for public consumption, and that she spent as little time as possible in his company.
Europe’s angry voters
Europe’s leaders need to cut the power of Brussels in many areas, but in some they need to extend it
(The Economist) Muddling through, the typical Brussels response to crises, is not an option this time, for if the EU does not change voluntarily, voters will force change upon it. To respond to their hostility, Europe’s leaders need first to examine the reasons for it.
Nationalism is clearly a factor. The message that voters do not want foreigners telling them what to do was broadcast loud and clear from the platforms of parties such as UKIP and the FN, and this is not the first rejectionist vote. The French and Dutch threw out the draft EU constitution in 2005 and the Irish rejected its replacement, the Lisbon treaty, in 2008 before being asked to vote again.
Hostility to immigration is another motive. Most of the anti-EU parties are also against foreigners. Resentment of the EU has risen since it expanded eastwards, and workers from those poorer countries moved westwards.
Finally, economics is a big driver of discontent. It is notable that the French, whose leaders have no solution to their stagnation, are far angrier than the Germans, whose economy is recovering nicely. Britain may be growing now, but the fact that its economy shrank so sharply in the aftermath of the crisis helps explain the grumpiness with its government.
There are two solutions to Europe’s problems: economic prosperity and increased democracy, which basically means returning power to the states and institutions that voters trust. The two aims often coincide, but not always.
The Rise of Poland’s Foreign Minister
(Spiegel) The Ukraine crisis has thrust Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski into the limelight as he takes a leading role in formulating Europe’s response to Russian aggression. Long a star in Warsaw politics, his stature is now growing internationally.
The foreign minister from Warsaw … having studied in Oxford, speaks perfect English. And he knows exactly what he wants. Kiev, he says, must push through reforms, battle corruption, improve the control of its borders and do everything in its power to stop the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine. And, he demands at the end, the Ukrainian government should finally eliminate import quotas for Polish products. Married to US journalist Anne Applebaum, Sikorski, 51, has led the Polish Foreign Ministry since 2007. But his role in the European Union and its relations with its eastern neighbors has become much more crucial since the eruption of the crisis in Ukraine. Europe’s history, he warned before anyone else, would be decided in Ukraine. At the time, though, nobody listened: not the French, who were more interested in the Mediterranean, and not the Germans, who were blinded by their efforts to maintain positive relations with the Russians.
Heads roll across Europe in wake of polls
(FT) The struggle over the EU’s future is due to be joined on Tuesday, when EU leaders gather for dinner in Brussels to weigh the region’s new leadership. At least two prime ministers, Britain’s David Cameron and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, were working to block the candidacy of veteran Brussels fixer Jean-Claude Juncker, frontrunner for the EU’s most high-profile post.
José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing European Commission president, told a European Central Bank conference in Portugal that he was “extremely concerned” by the rise in support for anti-European parties in the elections, which he called “the biggest stress test ever for European institutions”.
He also attacked mainstream parties in member states for pandering to anti-EU sentiment. “If you spend all week blaming Europe, you can’t ask people to vote for Europe on Sunday,” he said.
French president Francois Hollande said in a television address on Monday that he would use an EU summit on Tuesday to call for a marked shift from austerity to growth to combat the populist surge. He said the EU had become “incomprehensible.
France: The Makeover of the National Front
(HuffPost) The National Front’s victory on May 25 is a warning shot for the 2017 presidential elections, particularly for the Socialist Party of François Hollande, who has already said he will not run if he cannot improve the unemployment rate; but also for the Gaullist UMP, whose defeated, but still dynamic figure, Nicolas Sarkozy, is faced with a cluster of legal charges as he makes up his mind whether to run again for President in 2017. In the meantime, it is still too early to tell whether the new rock star of the Socialist Party, the recently appointed Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, can turn the situation around for the non-Marxist Left in France. Judging from the results of the May 25 vote, the prospects are not good. (Not, however, that Marine Le Pen can become the next President of France.)
Why far-right and far-left parties are gaining ground in Europe
(PBS Newshour) From Great Britain to Greece, anti-European Union political fervor surged in European Parliamentary elections over economic, globalization and immigration concerns. Jeffrey Brown discusses the rise of these anti-establishment groups and their potential impact with Antoine Ripoll of the European Parliament Liaison Office and Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Two interesting thoughts:
Jeffrey Brown: the protests come from both sides. And they don’t necessarily agree with each other.
Antoine Ripoli: Right. They agree that Europe is a scapegoat. That’s really what they feel.
… when you look at the countries where — like in France, where they are most — I mean, the extremists are more powerful, why did it happen?
It also happened because these countries have not done the reforms that they should have done. Like, Germany’s doing quite well because they have done the reforms 10 or 15 years ago and they’re well-off. Certain countries didn’t do their job and now they are facing very big difficulties and they are turning to Europe.
So, this is why speaking of scapegoat, because many people or many political — national politicians, when something is wrong, it’s a bit like here in D.C. It’s always the fault of Washington. So, there’s also a lot of Brussels-bashing by the elites, the national elites, and also the media. There is no European media in Europe.
Our people are informed only through the prism of national media. And it’s extremely difficult to form European public opinion. So, all this together explains partly or largely what happened yesterday.
(EU Observer) The centre-right European People’s Party won the most European Parliament seats, results on Sunday showed, but across Europe mainstream parties lost out to anti-establishment parties – with the biggest upset coming in France. Turnout in 2014 elections higher than five years ago
Established Parties Rocked by Anti-Europe Vote
(NYT) Members of the European political elite expressed alarm on Monday over the strong showing in European Parliament elections by nationalist and anti-immigrant parties skeptical about European integration, a development described by the French prime minister as an “earthquake.”
Eurosceptic ‘earthquake’ rocks EU
(BBC) Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France’s PM called a “political earthquake”.
The French National Front and UK Independence Party both performed strongly, while the three big centrist blocs in parliament all lost seats.
The outcome means a greater say for those who want to cut back the EU’s powers, or abolish it completely…
Across the board, the centre-right European People’s Party was set to win 212 out of the 751 seats, with 28.23% across the bloc, according to estimated results issued by the European Parliament. That would make it the biggest group – but with more than 60 seats fewer than before. … EPP leader Jean-Claude Juncker insisted the majority of people had voted to be a part of Europe.
“The extreme right, contrary to what some of the media has said, did not win this election,” he said. “We will have a clear pro-European majority in this house,” added the man who is the frontrunner to be the next president of the European Commission.
Front National wins European parliament elections in France
Elections return record number of MEPs opposed to EU project, with far right winning in France, Denmark and Austria
(The Guardian) European politics were jolted as seldom before on Sunday when France’s extreme nationalists triumphed in the European parliament elections, which across the continent returned an unprecedented number of MEPs hostile or sceptical about the European Union in a huge vote of no confidence in Europe’s political elite.
France’s Front National won the election there with a projected 25% of the vote, while the governing socialists of President François Hollande collapsed to 14%, according to exit polls.
France To Redraw Nation’s Map To Save Money
(AP) — France’s administrative regions — Normandy, Alsace, Burgundy, etc. — have long been part of the identity of citizens of this diverse country. Now, merging some of them is seen as a logical way to save money on bureaucracy, and the French support it — as long as it’s someone else’s turf.
The recent proposal of France’s new prime minister to cut the number of regions in half by 2017 is provoking sharp disputes — especially in areas with strong historical identity. It’s somewhat like erasing the state lines between Texas and Oklahoma.
A poll suggests that 68 percent of the French believe the measure to be a necessity — but 77 percent reject the disappearance of their own region. Polling agency LH2 questioned 5,111 people nationwide in February and March. The margin of error was 1.4 percentage points.
The regions reform is a long-running idea that was considered by the previous conservative government but never implemented, partly because of the difficulty of agreeing on a new map.
Marie-Anne Coninsx: Europe cannot take peace for granted
Sixty-four years ago on 9 May, Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister at the time, called for the unification of Europe
(Ottawa Citizen) Europe Day – the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration – is an occasion to celebrate Europe’s success in turning the page on a tragic period in our history and forging a common and prosperous future. It is an opportunity to commemorate past achievements and look to the future.
It is also a time for reflection. The crisis in Ukraine shows that we cannot take our hard-earned peace, freedom and security for granted. In today’s Europe, we see that democracy is a constant work-in-progress. We share the responsibility to defend and nurture it.
Sixty-four years ago on 9 May, Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister at the time, called for the unification of Europe to make war on the continent impossible and spread peace and prosperity on the European continent as well as globally. “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan,” he said. “It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”
His words of reconciliation and fraternity among Europeans certainly resonate today. The situation in Ukraine is threatening the very peace and security our forefathers fought for. It revives painful memories of conflicts thought impossible in a 21st century Europe.
(FT) Brussels hardens stance on gas pipeline
EU competition rules will not be waived for Gazprom, which is seeking to make its southeast Europe project more commercially appealing
Français et politique : la confiance se dégrade nettement, selon le Cevipof
(Le Figaro) SONDAGE – Les résultats de la cinquième vague du Baromètre de la confiance politique du Cevipof, dévoilés lundi, apparaissent comme des alertes à quelques mois des élections municipales et européennes de mars et mai 2014.
Une nouvelle fois, l’écart entre les Français et la classe politique se creuse et ne cesse de croître. «Nous atteignons des niveaux vertigineux que nous n’avons jamais connus», constate Pascal Perrineau en avouant sa surprise. Le directeur du centre de recherche politique de Sciences Po associé au CNRS cite un exemple éloquent: «87 % des Français considèrent que les responsables politiques se préoccupent peu ou pas du tout des gens comme eux. C’est hallucinant! Cela représente 6 points de plus par rapport à 2009. Nous approchons les 90 %, nous n’avions jamais connu une telle dégradation.»
Pascal Perrineau souligne qu’un tel niveau de défiance constitue un «record», même s’il était «déjà très haut» dans le dernier baromètre. «Et cette défiance politique commence à diffuser sur d’autres registres, comme celui de l’économie, poursuit-il. 60 % des Français considèrent que leur situation financière va se dégrader dans les prochains mois, 65 % pensent que la situation du pays va se dégrader et 69 % considèrent que les entreprises françaises ne sont pas compétitives.» (13 January 2014)
Javier Solana: Re-Electing Europe
(Project Syndicate) The run-up to next month’s European Parliament election has been characterized by a stifling tension between pro- and anti-Europeans. Surveys show that the two main political forces, conservatives and social democrats, are still running close (and far ahead of the rest); however the rise of populism is deeply worrying to everyone who believes in European unity – not only conservatives and social democrats, but also liberals and greens.
Parties like the National Front in France or the United Kingdom’s Independence Party could become front-runners in their respective countries, and they are not alone. In Finland, Austria, Holland, Hungary, Greece, and elsewhere, anti-European parties and more traditional Euroskeptics are benefiting from growing disillusion with Europe’s institutions, the remedies used to combat Europe’s ongoing economic crisis, and the widening division between the European Union’s north and south. Despite a rapid succession of significant steps, citizens throughout the EU sense too little improvement where it matters most – in their everyday lives.
But the battle between pro- and anti-Europeans is masking what really is at stake – and thus what should be the focus of electoral debate: how Europe can generate sustained economic growth. This question, rather than an endless defense against Euroskepticism, should be the main item of deliberation for parties pushing for an improved Europe for all. Broad-based recovery – in investment, demand, and employment – is the best weapon with which to confront those who would destroy the European project.
Revitalizing NATO for a Changing World
By Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General
Review by David T. Jones
(American Diplomacy) On 19 March, NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen addressed the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, regarding the Alliance and the evolving Ukraine crisis.
There were no surprises in his speech. Rasmussen characterized Russian action in Ukraine as a “blatant breach” of international commitments and characterized the Crimea referendum as “held at gunpoint.” The result was a “wake up call” for Europe-NATO and the “gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War.”
Rasmussen condemned Russia’s action and warned against its consequences for Moscow. He noted steps that NATO had taken to limit cooperation with Russia and augment security action, e.g., more Baltic air policing and surveillance flights over Poland. He anticipated additional action would be forthcoming.
Berlin Fears a High Court Ruling Could Threaten the European Union
(Stratfor) … The modern European establishment has only recently begun acknowledging the threat of radical parties. Next month’s EU parliamentary elections have amplified the establishment’s concerns. National elites have a tendency to deride what they perceive as loud and unrefined fringe groups, and to show considerable surprise when they become a political mainstay. …
The current surge in popularity of nationalist parties heretofore excluded from the legislature may jeopardize the existence of a strong government in Berlin, the only real decision-making body in a battered Europe.
The [German Federal Constitutional] court’s current course of action poses an existential threat to Merkel’s political career and to Germany’s economy and stability, which continue to depend on the health of the European Union and the economies of its constituent members. Should the court so rule, Germany could rapidly lose its place as the Continent’s strongman, being condemned instead to internal paralysis as it watches Europe slowly stagnate.
Dr. Charles Cogan: France Gets a Young Blood
(HuffPost) Valls is a communicator of considerable punch, with a tough-guy image cultivated in his most recent job as Interior Minister, where he acquired near rock-star popularity among the general population. He had been communications director for François Hollande’s successful presidential campaign against Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012. Before that he was a close aide of Hollande’s ex-partner, Ségolène Royal, who has now come full circle and has entered the Valls Government in the No. 3 position as Environment, Energy and Transport Minister. The way became open for the charismatic Royal after earlier this year President Hollande ended his relationship with his second partner, Valérie Trierweiller. Still earlier, Valls had worked as an aide to former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
French prime minister Manuel Valls lays out tax cuts and labour reforms
In first speech to parliament, Valls pledged to ‘open a new chapter’ for beleaguered Socialist president François Hollande
(The Guardian) The appointment of Valls, who hails from the right of the Socialist party, was seen as a last-ditch attempt by Hollande to woo disappointed voters after a disastrous showing in local elections 10 days ago.
John Lloyd: It is time to save the EU
(Reuters Opinion) A surge of far-right parties is about to hit the European parliament. Last weekend’s success of the National Front in France was led by the party’s leader Marine Le Pen, who pledges to take France out of an agreement that is destroying jobs and flooding towns with immigrants. Similar advances by the right are appearing in differing degrees of intensity elsewhere in Europe.
The European elections next month will likely see 100 or more deputies from the Freedom Party of Austria, the British UK Independence Party, the Dutch Freedom Party, the Finnish True Finns, the Flemish (Belgian) Vlaams Blok, the German Alternative for Germany, the Greek Golden Dawn, the Hungarian Jobbik, the Italian Five Star Movement, the Swedish Democrats as well as the National Front enter parliament. They’ll be noisy, passionate, insulting, disruptive and in some cases well-primed to exploit every weakness and mistake in the European parliament.
The arrival of these deputies is the most recent bit of bad news for the Brussels politicians and officials whose job is to steer the European Union through its roughest patch in half a century. Together with two other hammer blows, this bad news could actually save the EU.
A no-holds-barred argument about the purpose of the EU would dynamize this somnolent assembly. Some would be forced to face the euroskeptic issues that are raised by far-right parties, including the difficulty of attracting interest to an organization in which the members are unknown.
For decades, these issues have been ducked. But in the next election they will be forced on to the agenda. Finding the words and the passion to defend and promote the EU in debates will mean that Europeans will perhaps begin to see the point of the organization.
Does France’s vote for extremists herald dark days for Europe?
Given that France has both the largest Jewish population and one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe, the rise of a single-issue party devoted to hatred of religious minorities is an alarming development.
Add to that the likelihood that the even more extreme far-right Jobbik party will gain seats in next week’s Hungarian elections, and that a resurgence of the racist right has been seen in the Netherlands, Greece and elsewhere, and there’s good reason to fear for Europe.
But that fear needs to be put in context: It isn’t so much a sudden rise to mainstream prominence, observers say, but a much slower decades-long increase of the marginal population who are willing to back parties of hate.
Social conservatives are mobilizing in France, leading to talk of a tea party
(WaPost) Steeped in conservative rage and tasting of grass roots, a political backlash has traditional politicians and the news media asking the once-unthinkable: Is le tea party brewing in France?
If it were, it would be populated by the likes of Catherine Mas-Mezeran, a Parisian mother of three who wrinkles her nose at the mention of President François Hollande. She calls him “the Socialist,” which, technically, he is. But if President Obama had the birthers, Hollande now has the baptismists. Like others in a growing movement here, she firmly believes an unsubstantiated rumor emanating from conservative circles that Hollande may have secretly renounced his Christianity. …
Initially a reaction to a same-sex marriage law passed last year, the movement has morphed into the most sustained mobilization of social conservatives here in more than a generation.
A reinvigorated right delivered a devastating blow to Hollande in Sunday’s local elections across the country, prompting a humbled Hollande to reshuffle the French government on Monday
French Socialists suffer as far-right and conservatives sweep elections
Front National takes control of 11 town halls in local polls while Hidalgo’s victory in Paris is only bright spot for Hollande
Paris elected its first female mayor on Sunday night, but the victory for socialist Anne Hidalgo was an isolated piece of good news for President François Hollande‘s embattled party as the far-right Front National (FN) appeared on course to win a record number of town halls. … Provisional results from Sunday’s voting showed the protectionist, anti-EU Front National party of Marine Le Pen set to take control of 11 towns across the country, easily surpassing a past record in the 1990s when it ruled in four towns.At least 140 more towns swung from the left to mainstream opposition conservatives as voters punished Hollande for his failure to turn around the eurozone’s second-largest economy and above all to tackle an unemployment rate stuck at more than 10%.
Economic War with Russia: A High Price for German Business
(Spiegel) The EU has imposed new sanctions to prevent Vladimir Putin from further escalating the crisis in Ukraine. Berlin has played a leading role in the punitive actions, despite protests from the German business community. There’s no turning back for Merkel. Energy Exec Says Ukraine Crisis Not Bad for Business –The political crisis between Europe and Russia continues to worsen and sanctions are coming. But Johannes Teyssen, CEO of utility giant E.on is unconcerned. He says the Moscow-Berlin partnership has promoted peace on the continent and warns against gambling it away.
Obama opens crisis talks in Europe as Ukraine pulls forces from Crimea
(Reuters) In The Hague, leaders of the G7 – the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Britain and Italy – will discuss how to exert further pressure – and at what potential cost.
Persuading Europeans to sign on to tougher sanctions could be a challenge for Obama. The European Union does 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United States, and is the biggest customer for Russia oil and gas. The EU’s 28 members include countries with widely varying relationships to Moscow.
“Europeans are committed to do something,” said Jeffrey Mankoff, an analyst at the Center for Strategic International Studies. “I think it’ll be difficult to convince them to go anywhere near where the United States would like to go.”
Venice Referendum Aims To See City And Region Secede From Italy
(HuffPost) The area around Venice, in northern Italy, is holding an online referendum this week on whether or not to separate from the rest of the country.
Polls suggest two-thirds of the four million voters in Venice and the surrounding area, which encompasses the cities of Treviso, Vincenza and Verona, support secession, the U.K.’s The Week reports.
Supporters of separation want to see the creation of a state called the ‘Republic of Veneto’. Their dissatisfaction stems from a broad sentiment that the wealthier northern region doesn’t benefit enough from the tax revenue it provides and that a disproportionate amount of that money is wasted by Rome and the poorer south.
While the desire for independence may come as a surprise to many non-Italians, Venice has been a separate state for far longer than it has been part of Italy.
Russia holds war games near Ukraine; Merkel warns of catastrophe
(Reuters) In Berlin, Merkel removed any suspicion that she might try to avoid a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin,
“We would not only see it, also as neighbors of Russia, as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia,” she told parliament. “No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”
After Crimea, Sweden Flirts With Joining NATO
Officials worry that the Swedish military is woefully unprepared for a Russian attack.
(The Atlantic) Non-aligned since the early 19th century, Sweden’s “splendid isolation” has endured two world wars and even the five-decade superpower slugfest that dominated the late 20th century. That could change, however, in the wake of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Last week, Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg indicated that the defense budget, to which he had recently announced cuts, would be increased as a result of the crisis. Deputy Prime Minister Jan Björklund also publicly floated the idea of Swedish membership in NATO, warning that Russia could attempt to seize Gotland, a strategically located Swedish island province in the Baltic Sea, if it chose to attack the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. …
Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea, is roughly 56 miles off the Swedish coast and only 155 miles from Kaliningrad, a major Russian exclave in Europe with a large military base. …Russia’s Gazprom conglomerate owns Nord Stream, an $11-billion pipeline running along the Swedish island that pumps 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year to Western Europe. …
Swedish membership in NATO would leave Finland as the last non-aligned Scandinavian state, but the Finnish people are warier about picking sides. A February 24 Helsinki News poll, conducted prior to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, found that 64 percent of Finns oppose NATO membership, 60 percent oppose forming an EU common-defense policy, and 60 percent oppose a proposed defense alliance between Finland and Sweden.
Pipe It, Gerhard: EU Parliamentarians Shun Ex-Chancellor
(Spiegel) “The European Parliament regrets statements made by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder about the crisis in Ukraine,” the paper reads, “and suggests he should make no public statements about Russia because his relationship with Gazprom, a company that is one of Russia’s most important foreign policy instruments, creates a clear conflict of interest.”
Beyond Ukraine: Russia’s Imperial Mess
(Spiegel) Russia’s occupation of Crimea has violated international law and created a new crisis among world leaders. Now the EU and the US are fighting over the best means to address Russia’s reawakened expansionary ambitions.
EU Concerned about Cost of Sanctions on Russia
(Spiegel) Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has set off plenty of bluster and aggressive rhetoric in Europe. But many EU member states are skittish about the potential dangers of imposing punitive economic measures on Moscow.
Great Britain would very much like to penalize Russia for its encroachment on the Crimean Peninsula. But it should cost the UK as little as possible. That, it would appear, is London’s strategy for dealing with Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine — an approach made public through an embarrassing blunder on Monday. A freelance photographer snapped a picture of a classified document held by a government official as he entered Downing Street for consultations. The document outlined the potential punitive actions British Prime Minister David Cameron might take against Russia.
Britain should “be prepared to join other EU countries in imposing ‘visa restrictions/travel bans’ on Russian officials,” the paper advised. It added that Britain should “not support, for now, trade sanctions … or close London’s financial center to Russians.”
The message is clear: The British economy, which profits immensely from wealthy Russians, should be protected from potential fallout from the ongoing stand-off over Ukraine. Sanctions of some sort, it has become increasingly clear, will almost certainly be imposed, particularly with EU leaders gathering in Brussels on Thursday to develop a joint bloc response.
Ukraine crisis: Europe wrings hands as Vladimir Putin checkmates Crimea
Little wonder EU is divided, it’s been misreading Vladimir Putin for years
(CBC) The great beast with 28 heads and too many legs looks to be floundering again in the midst of what the British foreign secretary calls “the biggest crisis in Europe of the 21st century.”
Many leaders in the EU have seen him as a politician like themselves …
But Putin, despite the trappings of elections and a parliament, is not a politician like them. He controls the airwaves, as we’ve just seen in the onslaught of tendentious propaganda pouring out over Russian television channels about the imperative need to protect Russian lives in danger in Ukraine.
He controls who can run, indeed, who can run against him. He stacks the deck.
But above all, he thinks differently. This is the man who described the breakup of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century.
The Economist: To the delight of populists and the horror of the European Union, Switzerland voted in favour of quotas for EU migrants. The referendum was passed by a thin margin, but means free movement for EU citizens into Switzerland is no longer guaranteed. It also puts into question Swiss access to the EU single market The Guardian: Switzerland mulls over implications for economy of vote to curb immigration
Referendum to limit foreign workers pits town against country, French against German speakers – and Berne against the EU
Lord Ashdown on Bosnia protests: I have to blame the EU
(Amanpour blog) Few people know Bosnia better than Lord Paddy Ashdown, who served as High Representative and Europe’s Special Envoy to the country from May 2002 until January 2006.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Lord Ashdown says the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is “highly fragile” and that the European Union needs to do more to help Bosnians build a functional state that can serve its citizens.
Speaking of the Dayton Accord that ended the war, he says it was an ideal solution to bring about peace, but that it is the “wrong basis to build a sustainable state”.
The good news, Ashdown told Amanpour, is that the protests are “non-ethnic” and that protesters are “turning against a political clique who have governed the country”, who are “deep in corruption”.
Corruption across EU ‘breathtaking’ – EU Commission
(BBC) The extent of corruption in Europe is “breathtaking” and it costs the EU economy at least 120bn euros (£99bn) annually, the European Commission says.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem has presented a full report on the problem.
She said the true cost of corruption was “probably much higher” than 120bn.
Three-quarters of Europeans surveyed for the Commission study said that corruption was widespread, and more than half said the level had increased.
“The extent of the problem in Europe is breathtaking, although Sweden is among the countries with the least problems,” Ms Malmstroem wrote in Sweden’s Goeteborgs-Posten daily.
The cost to the EU economy is equivalent to the bloc’s annual budget.
Green Fade-Out: Europe to Ditch Climate Protection Goals
(Spiegel) The climate between Brussels and Berlin is polluted, something European Commission officials attribute, among other things, to the “reckless” way German Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked stricter exhaust emissions during her re-election campaign to placate domestic automotive manufacturers like Daimler and BMW. This kind of blatant self-interest, officials complained at the time, is poisoning the climate.
But now it seems that the climate is no longer of much importance to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, either. Commission sources have long been hinting that the body intends to move away from ambitious climate protection goals. At the request of Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU member states are no longer to receive specific guidelines for the development ofrenewable energy.
France: the new sick man of Europe
More Harold Wilson than Margaret Thatcher. A social contract rather than capitalism red in tooth and claw. Such was François Hollande’s pitch to the French people and the financial markets as he outlined his plan to reinvigorate the eurozone’s second biggest economy.
The backdrop was familiar to students of British politics in the 1970s: rising unemployment, weak growth, a disaffected business community, low productivity and high taxes. Hollande did not use the phrase but everybody knew the subtext of his address: France is now seen as the sick man of Europe.