Europe & EU 2015

Written by  //  December 31, 2015  //  Europe & EU  //  1 Comment

The Eurozone
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia,
Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.
Other EU states (except for Denmark and the United Kingdom)
are obliged to join once they meet the criteria to do so
It’s Time to Kick Germany Out of the Eurozone (Foreign Policy, Feb. 2015)
Foreign Affairs anthology  “Europe’s Monetary (Dis)union” (July 2015)

Arrests, security fears dampen New Year spirit in Europe
(Reuters) Shaken by a year of militant attacks, Europeans will ring in 2016 in subdued fashion on Friday, with soldiers on the streets of Paris, a heightened police presence at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, and silence across the vast cobbled emptiness of Moscow’s Red Square.
Bookended by deadly Islamist assaults on Paris, the departing year limped to a close with security forces on raised alert in many capitals and Belgian authorities announcing a series of terrorism-related arrests.
(Quartz) Uneasy New Year’s Eve preparations around the world. After a year of brutal terror attacks, major cities are trying to protect against potential attacks on large crowds. Festivities were cancelled in Brussels. In London, Scotland Yard cancelled annual leave for all 2,000 armed police officers, following reports that extremists may be planning to attack a major European city. And fearing a repeat of last year’s deadly stampede, Shanghai authorities have also cancelled traditional celebrations.
22 December
eu_and_schengen_states_Migrant crisis: ‘One million enter Europe in 2015’
A joint IOM and UNHCR statement said “a more co-ordinated European response is beginning to take shape”.
However, it said more needed to be done to improve reception facilities, accommodation, registration and to identify those who do and do not qualify for refugee protection.The migrant crisis has led some European states to put up fences and introduce border controls despite the EU’s border-free Schengen area.
17 December
EU leaders struggle to reach migrant agreement at Brussels summit
The fifth consecutive meeting focusing on the immigration crisis was blighted by deepening divisions and failure to follow through on past promises
(The Guardian) The worsening divisions over what to do about refugees, the future of the Schengen area, and the reintroduction of national border controls were laid bare by a mini-summit of eight countries that preceded the full meeting.
Angela Merkel, the German leader, led a session of seven other government leaders from Scandinavia, Benelux, Austria, and Greece aimed at trying to agree on how to share quotas of refugees taken directly from Turkey as part of a flagging €3bn deal Brussels recently reached with Ankara. Merkel is the driving force behind the initiative. But the so-called “coalition of the willing” could only attract 8 of 28 EU countries, highlighting that there is no longer a majority in the EU for a new system of permanent quotas sharing refugees across the union.
7 December
Europe’s Crisis: Refugees, Terror and Impotence
Europe’s feeble leaders have placed the well-being of their peoples in the hands of the Salman/Salafist branch of the Saudi royal family led by the unstable Crown Prince Mohammed, the reckless Hebrew zealot Netanyahu, and the ruthless would-be Caliph Erdogan in Ankara.
(HuffPost) The coincidental and overlapping refugee and terrorism crises besetting Europe pose a unique challenge to the European Union. For it places exceptional stresses on two weak points in the still incomplete community. The first is the absence of legitimate and effective mechanisms for reconciling divergent national interests, and composing them in coherent policies, when salient matters of a non-economic nature rise to the top of the agenda. The other is the weakness of a common identity crucial to addressing problems that involve the EU’s engagement with the rest of the world.
We see the consequence of those shortcomings in the disjointed response to the refugee wave that crested over the past few months. Generosity (on the part of Angela Merkel’s German) and a fair measure of cooperation in arranging the transit of migrants from country to country have given way to the triumph of parochial interests as greatly accentuated by fears of terrorism. Those fears are producing restrictive policies as national governments resort to insular solutions for both self-protection and to counter the mounting domestic pressures from agitated publics.
A joint EU strategy for dealing with the refugee crisis is now in limbo with no early prospect of its regaining a firm footing.
15 November
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Europe’s Terrorist War at Home
Learn from Israel, end the open-borders policy, and dig in for a long war of ideas against Islamists.
(WSJ) Islamic State, or ISIS, is vowing more attacks in Europe, and so Europe itself—not just France—must get on a war footing, uniting to do whatever it takes militarily to destroy ISIS and its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Not “contain,” not “degrade”—destroy, period.
But even if ISIS is completely destroyed, Islamic extremism itself will not go away. If anything, the destruction of ISIS would increase the religious fervor of those within Europe who long for a caliphate.
European leaders must make some major political decisions, and perhaps France can lead the way. A shift in mentality is needed to avoid more terror attacks on an even bigger scale and the resulting civil strife.
14 November
Paris Terror Attacks: Why France and the Way Forward
C Uday Bhaskar
(The Quint) Why France, is a question that has been repeatedly asked in the first few hours after the dastardly attacks and some recall of the last decade is instructive. Western Europe has been the site of more than one attack and Paris apart, both London and Madrid have been scarred by the urban terrorism scourge.
France, UK and Germany are among the three nations with a sizeable Muslim population. France has the largest, both in numbers and as a percentage of the overall population – being five million which is 7. 5 percent. Over the last five decades many first generation Muslim immigrants have lived uneasily against the French dictum of assimilation, wherein they have been expected to shed their distinctive religious, linguistic and ethnic identities and become part of the mainstream.
Consequently the prevailing socio-political ecosystem in France provides a relatively more conducive catchment area for Islamist terror groups and one may conjecture that over the last year – post Hebdo – there has been a steady consolidation of local assets in Paris and its periphery, which would have allowed the carefully planned and ruthlessly executed attack of Friday, November 13.
After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning
(Stratfor) The Paris attacks occurred during a Europe-wide political crisis over migrant flows from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the Paris attackers, prompting a Greek official to say Nov. 14 that the name on the document belonged to a person who passed though Greece in October. This news means that a number of politicians critical of the European Union’s response to the immigrant crisis will amplify their disapproval. In particular, advocates who want to end the Schengen agreement, which eliminated border controls in Europe, will use Paris to support their cause.
This has already begun. Poland became the first country to link the Paris attacks to the uptick in immigration. On Nov. 14, Polish Minister for European Affairs-designate Konrad Szymanski said the Paris attacks make impossible the implementation of an EU plan to distribute asylum seekers across the Continental bloc. As expected, France’s National Front party also demanded the end of the Schengen agreement. In a televised speech, party leader Marine Le Pen said France has to “recapture control of its borders.”
The anti-Schengen camp will feel vindicated by a parallel event that took place in southern Germany last week, when a Montenegrin citizen was arrested while allegedly driving to Paris with several weapons. While German police have not established a direct connection between this incident and the Nov. 13 attacks, they have said that a link cannot be ruled out. The fact that this man was from Montenegro — a country in the Western Balkans — and made it to Germany in his car will strengthen the demands for stricter border controls along the so-called Balkan route of migration, which connects Greece to Northern Europe.
The Paris attacks will therefore improve the popularity of anti-immigration parties in many European countries, and continue to weaken popular support for the Schengen agreement. Several countries, including Germany, Sweden, Slovenia and Hungary had already re-established border controls because of the immigration crisis. Hungary and Slovenia have gone as far as building fences along their borders. After the Nov. 13 attacks, most EU governments will find it hard to justify a policy of open borders.
4 November
George Monbiot: This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy
(The Guardian) The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. But I left out the most important issue: the remarkable ability it would grant big business to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections. Yet the defenders of our sovereignty say nothing.
The mechanism through which this is achieved is known as investor-state dispute settlement. It’s already being used in many parts of the world to kill regulations protecting people and the living planet.
The US and the European commission, both of which have been captured by the corporations they are supposed to regulate, are pressing for investor-state dispute resolution to be included in the agreement.
The commission justifies this policy by claiming that domestic courts don’t offer corporations sufficient protection because they “might be biased or lack independence”. Which courts is it talking about? Those of the US? Its own member states? It doesn’t say. In fact it fails to produce a single concrete example demonstrating the need for a new, extrajudicial system. It is precisely because our courts are generally not biased or lacking independence that the corporations want to bypass them. The EC seeks to replace open, accountable, sovereign courts with a closed, corrupt system riddled with conflicts of interest and arbitrary powers.
27 October
Migrant crisis threatens EU cohesion, warn Tusk and Schulz
Europe is still struggling to find a unified approach to the hundreds of thousands of people arriving on its shores, but delays in Brussels are not slowing down the migrants and refugees
(BBC) The president of the European Council has warned that the migrant crisis could threaten the cohesion of the EU.
Donald Tusk told the European Parliament the challenge was the biggest the EU had faced for a decade.
Meanwhile Parliament President Martin Schulz accused European governments of putting national interests above finding solutions as a community.
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than 700,000 migrants have reached Europe by boat so far this year.
24 October
The Fallout From The Greek Crisis Threatens European Democracy
(Forbes) Just as the crushing of the Prague Spring ended overt opposition to Soviet state communism for a generation, so the breaking of the Syriza government has ended overt opposition to the dominance of Brussels. No-one dare oppose the European institutions. True, they are unlikely to send in tanks, or shoot civilians. But the ECB can impose deprivation on whole populations if it chooses. And after the breaking of Greece, no-one is in any doubt that it would do so if it believed that would prevent failure of the Euro project.
It is indeed a sad commentary on the European mind that a sign of liberty in Greece is deemed a fundamental threat to the security of the Eurozone system.
But systems held together by fear ultimately fail. Governments that persistently deny the democratic rights of their people are eventually brought down. The growing democratic deficit at the heart of the Eurozone is the biggest threat to its survival. Eventually, just as the fall of the Berlin Wall triggered the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, popular uprisings will bring down what Evans-Pritchard describes as the “monster” created by Brussels.
6 October
What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you
(The Independent) The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is, as John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want, said: “An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”
Since before TTIP negotiations began last February, the process has been secretive and undemocratic. This secrecy is on-going, with nearly all information on negotiations coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests.
TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.
ISDSs are already in place in other bi-lateral trade agreements around the world and have led to such injustices as in Germany where Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for billions of dollars over its decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Here we see a public health policy put into place by a democratically elected government being threatened by an energy giant because of a potential loss of profit. Nothing could be more cynically anti-democratic.
There are around 500 similar cases of businesses versus nations going on around the world at the moment and they are all taking place before ‘arbitration tribunals’ made up of corporate lawyers appointed on an ad hoc basis, which according to War on Want’s John Hilary, are “little more than kangaroo courts” with “a vested interest in ruling in favour of business.”
5 October
TTIP: Three million people sign petition to scrap controversial trade deal
It will be presented to the European Commission in a few days
22 September
EU governments push through divisive deal to share 120,000 refugees
Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania vote against the decision to impose quotas, as lack of consensus threatens to feed resentment
(The Guardian) After a months-long battle that the UN warned was a threat to European unity, the EU’s interior ministers finally agreed on Tuesday to the principle of sharing refugees between member states.
The decision fed central European resentment of what they perceive as western – and especially German – bullying. In the minutes after the decision, Slovakian and Czech politicians reacted with anger to a decision that they claim will alter the fabric of European society.
We [Europe] Should Not Be Afraid
By OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría
This is not a numbers game. Leaders should shift their attention from questions concerning “how many” and “where” to the “what” of the crisis – namely, what they should be doing to integrate these newcomers into their societies and economies. They must exercise their leadership to convince the public that migrants – above all, those most in need of protection – give more than they take. In this moment of crisis, we should all heed the words of the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes: “Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.”
(Project Syndicate) Europe is facing an historic moment. By the end of this year, the number of people applying for asylum in the European Union will exceed one million. The human cost of this refugee crisis is appalling. Yet, in all but a handful of cases, the response of Europe’s governments has been tentative, at best: acknowledging the need to do more, while fearing the implications.
Some politicians fear the burden that migrants will impose on local communities and taxpayers. Others fear extremists masquerading as genuine refugees. Above all, many are scared of public opinion, which – for all the heart-warming scenes of welcome and support for asylum-seekers – remains hesitant and even hostile to the prospect of still more migrants from war-torn, troubled countries, especially if they practice a different religion.
European leaders cannot afford to be afraid. The refugee crisis is not one from which they can opt out. No magic wand will empower leaders to transport more than a million people back across the Aegean and the Bosphorus to Mosul and Aleppo, or across the Mediterranean to Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan.
… There are three challenges. The first is to agree on a fair allocation of refugees within Europe … The second challenge is to start the process of integrating refugees into Europe’s societies and economies. …paying the price to accept and integrate today’s asylum-seekers could reap significant benefits for the Europe of tomorrow. Our work at the OECD shows that migration, if well managed, can spur growth and innovation. Unfortunately, in the past, migration has not always been well managed: migrants have been concentrated in ghetto-like conditions, with few public services or employment prospects. Even so, the evidence from the OECD’s 34 member countries is that immigrants generally pay more in taxes and social security contributions than they receive in individual benefits. … the third, and greatest, challenge that European leaders have to overcome: the fear of migrants.
OECD Policy brief: Is this humanitarian migration crisis different?
15 September
Hungary enacted tougher laws for migrants. The country passed laws that allow police to arrest, charge, and potentially deport migrants scaling the recently erected fence on its border with Serbia. The move comes after EU leaders failed to agree on resettling 120,000 migrants, and after Austria, Slovakia, and the Netherlands introduced their own border controls, following Germany’s lead. (Quartz)
13 September
Refugee crisis: Germany reinstates controls at Austrian border
Train traffic from Austria halted as EU prepares for refugee showdown in Brussels on Monday
(The Guardian) All trains between Austria and Bavaria, the principal conduit through which 450,000 refugees have arrived in Germany this year, ceased at 5pm Berlin time.
The emergency measures are designed to give respite to Germany’s federal states who are responsible for looking after refugees. There is also discussion inside the government about sending troops to the road and rail borders with Austria to reinforce security, Der Spiegel reported.
The move comes amid extraordinary scenes at Munich’s main train station over the weekend and a growing backlash inside Germany over the decision last week by Merkel, to allow unregistered refugees to enter the country. The numbers exceeded all expectations. On Saturday, 13,015 refugees arrived at the station on trains from Austria. Another 1,400 came on Sunday morning. The city’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, said Munich was “full”, with its capacities completely exhausted. Some refugees slept on the station concourse on Saturday night.
Germany’s stunning ad hoc move sets the stage for a bitter showdown on Monday at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels. Hungary’s president Viktor Orbán welcomed the decision and said it would protect “German and European values”. He and other east European leaders are insisting they will not accept a plan set out last week by the European commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker for mandatory refugee quotas.
4 September
UN officials urge EU to accept refugees
The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean is the result of poverty and war and can be remedied by European countries opening their borders and a global effort to lower extreme poverty, says Philippe Douste-Blazy, a United Nations undersecretary-general. Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is asking the EU to take in up to 200,000 refugees. The Guardian (London) (9/4), Voice of America (9/4)
3 September
Gwynne Dyer– Europe’s Refugee Crisis: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The refugee crisis is testing the European Union. The advance of climate change will test it further.
Refugees from the wars of the Middle East are pouring into the European Union at an unprecedented rate. So are economic migrants from Africa and non-EU countries in the Balkans (Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, etc), and some of them claim to be refugees too. They are coming at the rate of about 3000 a day, mostly through Turkey into Greece or across the Mediterranean to Italy, and the EU doesn’t know what to do about it.
It’s not really that big a refugee crisis: one million people at most this year, or one-fifth of 1 per cent of the European Union’s 500 million people. Little Lebanon (population 4.5 million) has already taken in a million refugees, as has Jordan (population 6.5 million). But while a few of the EU’s 28 countries are behaving well, many more have descended into a gibbering panic about being “overrun”.
… Germany is suspending the “Dublin regulation”, an internal EU rule that says refugees must seek asylum in the first EU country they reach. This is manifestly unfair to Greece and Italy, so Berlin will now allow all Syrian refugees to apply for asylum in Germany regardless of where they entered the EU. Moreover, it will regard Syrian citizenship as adequate evidence that people are genuine refugees.
France, Italy and the Netherlands have also been fairly generous about granting refugees asylum, and quiet, gallant Sweden is accepting more refugees per capita than anybody else in the EU. But the good news stops here. Most other EU countries are refusing to take a fair share of the refugees, or even any at all.
Healing Europe’s east-west divide is central to a lasting refugee solution
Natalie Nougayrède
EU leaders need a new narrative if they want public opinion in eastern states to show more sympathy
What people are told and how events are communicated will define perceptions and, more often than not, policymaking. The media scene in central and Eastern Europe has evolved in worrying ways: many post-1989 serious, democratically oriented media have been overtaken by sometimes obscure populist or Europhobic websites.
Migrants crisis: Hungary’s Orban lays bare EU East-West split
(BBC) It is partly, but not entirely, a split between Western and Eastern Europe, where more diverse societies and a recent history of support for refugees are far more rare.
But it is also about smaller countries objecting to having policies imposed upon them by others.
That, though, is exactly what may be about to happen. The big guns are moving into position.
France and Germany are putting forward joint proposals for a mandatory quota system that could see more than 100,000 refugees distributed “more fairly” across the EU.
13 August
The IMF is caught in a geopolitical tug-of-war between Germany and the US
(Quartz) … the IMF has made clear that Greece’s debt load, expected to balloon to more than twice its annual economic output in 2016, is not sustainable without some form of relief—that is, a meaningful reduction in what Athens owes. The IMF’s rules prohibit lending to countries with so much debt that they are not able to pay the fund back. That means even though the IMF endorses the reforms required by the new Greek bailout agreement, it likely won’t sign on to participate in this new loan program unless there is enough debt relief to make repayment a reasonable possibility.
While the IMF’s financial contribution would be welcome, what’s more important to Greece’s other creditors is the organization’s imprimatur as the global financial authority. This eases the passage of the bailout program in Europe’s parliaments, especially Berlin’s, where IMF participation is considered an essential condition for approval.Now, Germany’s finance ministry is criticizing the proposed bailout terms as too lenient, even as it insists that the IMF and its director, former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, must sign off on a program that breaks the fund’s rules.
4 August
Leftwing Eurosceptics are wrong to use Greece as a reason to leave the EU
Hugo Dixon
Making a case for Brexit based on events in Greece doesn’t make sense unless you have a distorted view of Syriza’s failures and the reasons for the crisis
(The Guardian) The new phenomenon is the surge in leftwing Euroscepticism. This is based on the perception that Greece has been bullied into accepting austerity by other eurozone countries, led by Germany. Progressives have swallowed undiluted the propaganda pushed out by Greece’s radical left Syriza government: that the EU is an organisation that rides roughshod over the people’s democratic wishes because it is hellbent on imposing a bankrupt neoliberal economic ideology. …
There is much that is correct in the left’s narrative on Greece. For example, the euro was badly designed, with a bias towards deflation. What’s more, Greece should not have joined the currency, as its economy wasn’t fit enough to endure the straitjacket of a single monetary policy.
Once the crisis hit, Athens should have been allowed to default on its debt (much of which was then held by foreign banks) rather than borrowing extra money from fellow eurozone countries. It should also not have been required to implement so much debilitating and self-defeating austerity.
But there is also much that is wrong in the left’s narrative. It doesn’t mention that Greece had many deep-seated problems that pre-dated the creditor-imposed austerity: rampant tax evasion, an epidemic of early retirement, a bloated public sector and a private sector carved up by special interests. These problems need to be corrected before Greece can thrive. It doesn’t help to label these necessary reforms as neoliberal. What is progressive about people not paying taxes and retiring under the age of 50?
2 August
Germans fret over Europe’s future but still believe
(Reuters) The aftermath of the euro zone’s ugly all-night summit on the Greek debt crisis that ended on July 13 with a deal on stringent, intrusive terms for negotiating a third bailout has sent shockwaves across Europe, especially in Germany.
It was the second time in weeks that EU leaders had clashed over fundamental problems they seem unable to solve, after an acrimonious June summit on how to cope with a wave of migrants – many of them refugees from conflict – desperate to enter Europe.
And it has prompted intensive head-scratching in Berlin about how to strengthen European institutions and underpin the euro more durably – an intellectual ferment unmatched in most other EU capitals.
… Berlin is more open than most EU nations to offering shelter to war victims and accepted the largest quota of asylum seekers.
Nor was Merkel as tough as creditors such as Finland, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia in insisting on humiliating conditions for any further assistance to Greece.
Yet like all leaders, Germany cops most of the blame. And due to its past, that is often laced with references to the Nazi tyranny that make present-day Germans cringe.
That outcry was compounded when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble breached a taboo by suggesting that Greece should leave the euro zone, at least temporarily, if it could not meet the conditions.
After decades of trying to be an unobtrusive team player in Europe or co-steering integration through the Franco-German tandem, Berlin was catapulted into an unwelcome solo leadership role by the euro zone debt crisis that began in 2010.
That extra burden of responsibility, due more to French weakness and British indifference than Teutonic ambition, has weighed heavily on Germans who fear it means others trying to pick their pockets without doing their own fair share.
24 July
A Point of View: Why the row between Greece and Germany is like a lovers’ tiff
(BBC) In the seemingly interminable discussions over Greece’s financial crisis, we often hear hackneyed references to the “European ideal”, as if it is some fixed table of values that establishes clear boundaries over our behaviour to one another. But it isn’t. The skirmishes between Greece and Germany are nothing less than a battle over what that European ideal should be. Like those magical Socratic dialogues, it is an existential debate. Is it more important to be fun-loving, high-spirited, contemptuous of material things? Or do we choose the way of rigour, discipline, efficiency? The answer, of course, is to find a balance between those extremes. But where to draw the lines?
The Return of the Ugly German
By Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005
Greece is now subject to a cure – further austerity – that has not worked in the past and that was prescribed solely to address Germany’s domestic political needs.
(Project Syndicate) The path that Germany will pursue in the twenty-first century – toward a “European Germany” or a “German Europe” – has been the fundamental, historical question at the heart of German foreign policy for two centuries. And it was answered during that long night in Brussels, with German Europe prevailing over European Germany.This was a fateful decision for both Germany and Europe. One wonders whether Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble knew what they were doing.
To dismiss the fierce criticism of Germany and its leading players that erupted after the diktat on Greece, as many Germans do, is to don rose-tinted glasses. … at its core, the criticism articulates an astute awareness of Germany’s break with its entire post-WWII European policy.
Schäuble’s position has thrown into sharp relief the fundamental question of the relationship between Europe’s south and north, his approach threatens to stretch the eurozone to the breaking point. The belief that the euro can be used to bring about the economic “re-education” of Europe’s south will prove a dangerous fallacy – and not just in Greece. As the French and Italians well know, such a view jeopardizes the entire European project, which has been built on diversity and solidarity
19 July
Europe After the Greek Debt Crisis
By Kathleen R. McNamara
(Foreign Affairs) The European Union is an unparalleled historical experiment in governance. There is no other example in modern times of such an intensive effort to establish a peaceful, prosperous political community beyond the nation-state. Forged out of the ashes of two devastating world wars and a great depression, the union of nation-states has been increasingly bound together through markets, laws, and institutions. Although the trust and optimism that must underpin such a community has waxed and waned over the years, the poisonous atmosphere that has arisen in the wake of the Greek debt negotiations is remarkable, particularly as it comes on the heels of several decades of such extraordinary success.
The EU is not collapsing, and, no matter what happens to Greece and the eurozone, the EU’s institutions, laws, and policies will remain in place for the foreseeable future. But the perception that Germany made a brute power play to force Greece to accept devastating bailout terms in exchange for euro membership has unleashed a backlash against that country and deepened cleavages between northern and southern Europe. In the process, the Greek negotiations have unwound the willingness of many EU citizens to join their political fates together, a commitment that constituted the heart and soul of the European project. The result may be a less cohesive Europe, one that is unwilling to act in the world as a single unit and thus less able to address the continent’s key challenges: economic stagnation and unemployment, the influx of political refugees, climate change, and political instability outside its borders. More broadly, the Greek debt crisis has demonstrated once and for all the fragility of a polity that does not rest on robust institutions and norms of legitimate democratic governance.
17 July
Eric Reguly: U-turn of the euro could be an exit threat after Greece
The week that saw Greece spared from the bum’s rush out of the euro was the same week that the European integration project, the greatest feat of European geo-economic and political engineering since the Second World War, finally broke down.
Perhaps an emotional response, but there is much in this interview that is either condescending, arrogant – or both!
SPIEGEL Interview with Wolfgang Schäuble: ‘There Is No German Dominance’
We are currently seeing that a currency union without political union cannot function without complications. So we have to move further toward establishing a political union, for example by strengthening the European Commission and the European Parliament. But that means that member states must give up even more sovereignty. They have already taken this step when it comes to monetary policy, but are they also prepared to transfer financial policy competencies, for example, to the European level? Many have a problem with that.
(World Post) The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy makes the political case for Greece remaining in Europe. Mauro Guillén contrasts the French desperation for the political unity of Europe with Germany’s disciplined economic calculus. European Parliament President Martin Schulz and German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel write that, as Social Democrats, they continue to see France as the indispensable partner with Germany in moving Europe forward. Writing from Athens, HuffPost Greece Editor-in-Chief Nikos Agouros argues that the ideological notion of the political autonomy of the modern state within the global market economy has proven a disastrous illusion despite the radical efforts of Syriza. Colleague Pavlos Tsimas asks what would have happened if Greece had voted “yes.” Daniel Marans describes how Germany beat Greece at “Liar’s Poker.” Nobel laureate Ed Phelps doubts that even debt relief can save the Greek economy without uprooting clientelism and boosting productivity.
Ben Bernanke — Greece and Europe: Is Europe holding up its end of the bargain?
(Brookings) Germany could help restore balance within the euro zone and raise the currency area’s overall pace of growth by increasing spending at home, through measures like increasing investment in infrastructure, pushing for wage increases for German workers (to raise domestic consumption), and engaging in structural reforms to encourage more domestic demand. Such measures would entail little or no short-run sacrifice for Germans, and they would serve the country’s longer-term interests by reducing the risks of eventual euro breakup.
I’ll end with two concrete proposals. First, negotiations over Greece’s evidently unsustainable debt burden should be based on explicit assumptions about European growth. If European growth turns out to be weaker than projected, which in turn would make it tougher for Greece to grow, then Greece should be allowed greater leeway after the fact in meeting its fiscal targets.
Second, it’s time for the leaders of the euro zone to address the problem of large and sustained trade imbalances (either surpluses or deficits), which, in a fixed-exchange-rate system like the euro zone, impose significant costs and risks. For example, the Stability and Growth Pact, which imposes rules and penalties with the goal of limiting fiscal deficits, could be extended to reference trade imbalances as well. Simply recognizing officially that creditor as well as debtor countries have an obligation to adjust over time (through fiscal and structural measures, for example) would be an important step in the right direction.
16 JulyGreece Surrendered, But The Real Defeat Was For Europe
By Michael Cox, Director of LSE IDEAS and Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
(Social Europe) [O]ne thing is fairly obvious as we move forward into the unknown. If Greece is still in deep trouble (I was assured by a leading economist the other night that Grexit is still going to happen) then so too is the European project. With Germany now looking like the bully of Europe, France and Italy at odds with Germany, and the North now more distant from the South than it has been for an age, the EU is in need of some serious repair.
Meanwhile, the outside world looks on in disbelief. Certainly, the Americans have not been impressed. The Chinese are bewildered. And closer to home in the UK, the Eurosceptics are riding high. Nor, if I am very much mistaken, have I ever seen Putin looking quite so happy of late. And for the time being at least, he probably has much to be smiling about.
14 July
Jeffrey Sachs : « Les Etats puissants seront rattrapés par les souffrances qu’ils infligent»
(Libération) INTERVIEW Pour l’économiste, très critique envers l’accord sur la Grèce, l’Europe «est sur le point de s’effondrer à cause des vanités et du cynisme d’une poignée de banquiers et de politiciens».
The rise and fall of the German Empire: What Greece’s crippling bailout deal reveals about the future of Europe
Germany has dominated the Eurozone and forced it to run according to its parochial interests. What happens now?
(Salon) In reality, the dream of a United States of Europe was never realistic, given these primal forces. If it was, the parties involved would have set up a legitimate fiscal union and real power to the elected European parliament. Instead, they built a way for Germany to lord over a series of client states. And this became very clear amid economic crisis.
As Wolfgang Munchau writes, expulsion from the German empire, with the explicit promise of economic immiseration down that road, is now squarely on the table in any future talks with Greece, or any other country that manages to get itself into trouble. And other countries will; at least, they will occasionally seek fiscal or monetary policy interventions at odds with the emperor’s wishes. There is no democratic political union anymore, it’s just a shotgun marriage run on threats.
An Empire Strikes Back: Germany and the Greek Crisis
The specifics are less important than the fact that Greece invoked its sovereign right, and Germany responded by enforcing an agreement that compelled the Greeks to cede those rights.
(Stratfor) There were two sides of the Greek position that frightened the Germans. The first was that Athens was trying to use its national sovereignty to compel the European Union to allow Greece to avoid the pain of austerity. This would, in effect, shift the burden of the Greek debt from the Greeks to the European Union, which meant Germany. For the Germans, the bloc was an instrument of economic growth. If Germany accepted the principle that it had to assume responsibility for national financial problems, the European Union — which has more than a few countries with national financial problems — could drain German resources and undermine a core reason for the bloc, at least from the German point of view. If Greece demonstrated it could compel Germany to assume responsibility for the debt in the long term, it is not clear where it would have ended — and that is precisely what the Greek vote intended.
On the other hand, if the Greeks left the European Union, it would have created a precedent that would in the end shatter the bloc. If the European Union was an elective affinity, in Goethe’s words, something you could enter and then leave, then the long-term viability of the bloc was in serious doubt. And there was no reason those doubts couldn’t be extended to the free trade zone. If nations could withdraw from the European Union and create trade barriers, then Germany would be living in a world of tariffs, European and other. And that was the nightmare scenario for Germany. …
I have deliberately used Germany rather than the European Union as the negotiating partner with the Greeks. The Germans have long been visible as the controlling entity of the European Union. This time, they made no bones about it. Nor did they make any bones about their ferocity. In effect they raised the banner of German primacy, German national interest, and German willingness to crush the opposition. The French and the Italians, among others, questioned the German position publicly. In the end, it didn’t matter. The Germans consulted with these other governments, but Berlin decided the negotiating position, because in the end it was Germany that would be most exposed by French or Italian moderation. This negotiation was in the context of the European Union, but it was a German negotiation.
7 July
Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty et Angela Merkel
Five leading economists warn the German chancellor, “History will remember you for your actions this week.”
By Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis
(The Nation) As most of the world knew it would, the financial demands made by Europe have crushed the Greek economy, led to mass unemployment, a collapse of the banking system, made the external debt crisis far worse, with the debt problem escalating to an unpayable 175 percent of GDP. The economy now lies broken with tax receipts nose-diving, output and employment depressed, and businesses starved of capital.
Together we urge Chancellor Merkel and the Troika to consider a course correction, to avoid further disaster and enable Greece to remain in the eurozone. Right now, the Greek government is being asked to put a gun to its head and pull the trigger. Sadly, the bullet will not only kill off Greece’s future in Europe. The collateral damage will kill the Eurozone as a beacon of hope, democracy and prosperity, and could lead to far-reaching economic consequences across the world.
6 July
Spain’s politicians distance themselves from euro crisis: ‘This isn’t Greece’
Leftwing Podemos praises Greek Syriza party but talks up differences between the two eurozone countries to calm voters’ fears of economic contagion
Greek referendum no vote signals huge challenge to eurozone leaders
Victory by Syriza party of 60% to 40% in polarising referendum presents nightmare for eurozone elites, particularly German chancellor Angela Merkel
(The Guardian) The sweeping victory for Tsipras, who challenged the might of Germany, France, Italy and the rest of the eurozone, represented a nightmare for the mainstream elites of the EU. With Greek banks closed, withdrawals limited, capital controls in place and the country rapidly running out of cash, emergency action will be needed almost immediately to stem the likelihood of a banking collapse. But it is not clear whether the European Central Bank will maintain a liquidity lifeline to Greece and whether the creditor governments of the eurozone will sanction instant moves to salvage Greece’s crashing financial system.
Germany’s vice chancellor and social democratic leader, Sigmar Gabriel, said Tsipras had burned his bridges with the rest of the eurozone. But the Greek leader believes he has strengthened his negotiating hand.
Tsipras campaigned for a no vote, arguing that this was the best way to secure a better deal, keeping Greece in the euro while obtaining debt relief from its creditors. The leaders of Germany, France and others stated the opposite: that a no vote meant the Greeks were deciding to become the first country to quit the currency, membership of which is supposed to be irreversible.
3 July
Europeans tried to block IMF debt report on Greece: sources
(Reuters) – Euro zone countries tried in vain to stop the IMF publishing a gloomy analysis of Greece’s debt burden which the leftist government says vindicates its call to voters to reject bailout terms, sources familiar with the situation said on Friday.
The document released in Washington on Thursday said Greece’s public finances will not be sustainable without substantial debt relief, possibly including write-offs by European partners of loans guaranteed by taxpayers. It also said Greece will need at least 50 billion euros in additional aid over the next three years to keep itself afloat.
Publication of the draft Debt Sustainability Analysis laid bare a dispute between Brussels and the Washington-based global lender that has been simmering behind closed doors for months.
At a meeting on the International Monetary Fund’s board on Wednesday, European members questioned the timing of the report which IMF management proposed at short notice releasing three days before Sunday’s crucial referendum that may determine the country’s future in the euro zone, the sources said.
There was no vote but the Europeans were heavily outnumbered and the United States, the strongest voice in the IMF, was in favor of publication, the sources said.
28 June
The migrant crisis, Islamist terrorism, Grexit and Brexit: a perfect storm of crises blows apart European unity
With disagreement over how to deal with migration and a failure to resolve the Greek problem, tempers frayed at the EU summit – while the UK in/out debate barely got discussed
(The Guardian) Solidarity is indeed needed these days in a 28-nation EU that is creaking, not just under the weight of one crisis but several. Greece has been on the brink of defaulting on a payment to the IMF for weeks, placing its future in the euro and the EU in grave doubt, and is now heading for a defining referendum next weekend which could truly lead to Grexit. Meanwhile the UK is heading towards its own in/out referendum, also causing anxiety across European capitals. Nerves and tempers are fraying, as the migrants pour in. The EU is used to expanding its borders, and deepening ties, not losing members and limiting its role. Those from outside who regard their mission as to expose the EU as an unnatural political-cum-economic marriage of nations unsuited to union sense their moment.
In a dapper blue suit, Ukip leader Nigel Farage was prowling around the Brussels summit on Friday, declaring that the “triple crisis” was the beginning of the end for the EU, the moment it would be shown to have over-reached itself – when the poorer south would fracture from the wealthier north, when the consequences of open borders would divide members, and all would begin to implode. It was already happening with Greece. “I always said the euro would take 10 years to self-destruct and it is happening,” he said. …
As the EU’s crises multiply, and migration and terrorism threaten, there may be ill temper, tension and division at Europe’s core but there is an underlying determination to hold together. They talk differently now about losing the non-believers.
26 June
Mohamed A. El-Erian: Shelter from the Storm in Europe
(Project Syndicate) Dark clouds are lowering over Europe’s economic future, as three distinct tempests gather: the Greek crisis, Russia’s incursion in Ukraine, and the rise of populist political parties. Though each poses a considerable threat, Europe, aided by the recent cyclical pickup, is in a position to address them individually, without risking more than a temporary set of disruptions. Should they converge into a kind of “perfect storm,” however, a return to sunny days will become extremely difficult to foresee any time soon. …
Securing Europe’s economic future in this context will require, first and foremost, a renewed commitment to regional integration efforts – completing the banking union, advancing fiscal union, and moving forward on political union – that have been crowded out by a never-ending series of meetings and summits on Greece. Likewise, on the national level, pro-growth economic-reform initiatives – which seem to have lost some urgency in the face of overly complacent and excessively accommodating financial markets – need to be revitalized. This would ease the policy burden on the ECB, which is currently being forced to pursue multiple ambitious objectives that far exceed its capacity to deliver sustainably good outcomes regarding growth, employment, inflation, and financial stability.
20 June
As Greece stares into the abyss, has Spain escaped from crisis?
Three years ago the country faced an Athens-style bailout. Now the shadow of collapse has lifted – but the young and jobless are still struggling
While the big picture is undoubtedly improving – big investors are returning to a country that barely three years ago was widely expected to need a Greece-style sovereign bailout – Spain is still mired in a period of transition.
Even the IMF report that welcomed Spain’s impressive growth rate – one of the strongest in Europe – also stressed the shaky jobs outlook, noting that unemployment was “still painfully high” and that “vulnerabilities remain”.
Eurozone_map.svg18 June
Mario Draghi and the Holy Grail
(Coppola comment) The Euro is founded on lies. It claims to promote European unity, but it is set up to create and maintain fragmentation and distrust. It claims to preserve sovereignty, but to ensure its own survival it requires its member states to relinquish control of their economies and, increasingly, their politics. It claims to bring prosperity, but its legacy is depression.
And because it is founded on lies, it is fragile. Draghi is indeed correct that if one country leaves, others may follow, and that may result in the whole thing unwinding. But this is not because irrevocable membership is a necessary characteristic of a single currency. Clearly, it is not: in other currency unions, member states come and go, but the currency survives. No, irrevocable membership is necessary because the Euro is NOT a single currency. It lacks the underpinning of history, custom, identity and trust that characterises genuine single currencies. And its institutional construction is that of a pegged system of exchange rates, not a single currency. We saw in 1992 how pegged exchange rate systems can unravel when one member leaves…..
30 May
L’Allemagne va-t-elle encore une fois conduire l’Europe à sa ruine?
L’ancien ministre allemand Joschka Fischer n’a pas de mots assez durs à l’encontre de la politique européenne d’austérité imposée par la chancelière Angela Merkel. Il est encore temps, dit-il, de rebrousser chemin et d’accepter une union budgétaire
27 May
Finland names right-wing populist as foreign minister
Life in the eurozone is about to get a little less comfortable for Greece. Finland’s popular new anti-bailout Foreign Minister Timo Soini hopes the cash-strapped country will exit the bloc.

VE Day 70th anniversary marked with events across Europe
Events across the UK and the rest of Europe on the weekend will commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day – the end of World War Two on the continent.
A two-minute silence will be held at London’s Cenotaph on Friday to mark the moment Winston Churchill announced that the war with Germany was over.

What Europeans think of each other — Polls apart
IT IS not hard to find reasons why disaffection with the European Union might be growing within Europe. GDP in the euro area has declined for the sixth successive quarter and unemployment is running at record levels in many countries. Germany resents bailing out profligate neighbours and its relationship with France, which has just slipped into recession, is at a low ebb. In Britain, the Conservative prime minister faces one of the periodic uprisings from within his party against membership of the EU. Nonetheless, it is sobering to see a new survey on public opinion in Europe by the Pew Research Centre confirming much of this disgruntlement, and more besides. (May 2013) – fascinating snapshot; we wonder, has anything changed in 2015?

George Friedman: A War Between Two Worlds | Stratfor
As it happens, my new book will be published on Jan. 27. Titled Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe, it is about the unfolding failure of the great European experiment, the European Union, and the resurgence of European nationalism. It discusses the re-emerging borderlands and flashpoints of Europe and raises the possibility that Europe’s attempt to abolish conflict will fail. I mention this book because one chapter is on the Mediterranean borderland and the very old conflict between Islam and Christianity. Obviously this is a matter I have given some thought to, and I will draw on Flashpoints to begin making sense of the murderers and murdered, when I think of things in this way.
We’ve spoken of borderlands, and how they are both linked and divided. Here is a border sea, differing in many ways but sharing the basic characteristic of the borderland. Proximity separates as much as it divides. It facilitates trade, but also war. For Europe this is another frontier both familiar and profoundly alien.
Islam invaded Europe twice from the Mediterranean — first in Iberia, the second time in southeastern Europe, as well as nibbling at Sicily and elsewhere. Christianity invaded Islam multiple times, the first time in the Crusades and in the battle to expel the Muslims from Iberia. Then it forced the Turks back from central Europe. The Christians finally crossed the Mediterranean in the 19th century, taking control of large parts of North Africa. Each of these two religions wanted to dominate the other. Each seemed close to its goal. Neither was successful. What remains true is that Islam and Christianity were obsessed with each other from the first encounter. Like Rome and Egypt they traded with each other and made war on each other
. 13 January 2015

13 May
TTIP: Why the EU-US trade deal matters
(BBC) There’s one big issue for the new UK government that stayed below the radar during the election campaign – trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States, known as TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The big political parties didn’t make much of it during the campaign. Both the Conservatives and Labour are broadly in favour, though the Greens are very critical. TTIP was however addressed in the manifestos. War on Want (who oppose the plans) have compiled the parties’ positions on the issue.
Outside the political arena there are some very strong opinions. Many business voices are enthusiastic, but there is also very vocal opposition.
What is TTIP and what is it for?
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or it will be if the negotiations are completed. The aim is to boost the economies of the EU and the US by removing or reducing barriers to trade and foreign investment.
8 May
Cameron sweeps to unexpected triumph in British election
With the votes counted in but a handful of constituencies, Mr. Cameron’s Conservatives were forecast to finish with 331 seats, just enough to govern alone in the 650-seat parliament after five years of coalition government.
The separatist Scottish National Party were the other big winners in Thursday’s general election, winning 56 of the 59 seats up for grabs in Scotland.
The Conservative win puts the United Kingdom on track to hold an in-or-out referendum on the country’s membership in the European Union by 2017, with some analysts predicting the vote could be held as early as next year.
5 May
How British Elections Represent the State of Europe
(Stratfor) This election matters because UKIP — formerly the United Kingdom Independence Party — is in it, and polls indicate that it will win about 12 percent of the vote, while winning a handful of seats in Parliament. … UKIP is both anti-European and anti-immigration. It opposes British integration with the European Union, based both on practical matters and ideological matters. UKIP sees the European Union as undermining British economic well-being and British sovereignty, and it sees British sovereignty as a moral imperative. It also sees British culture as an essential characteristic of British sovereignty and, in that sense, regards immigrants as a threat to Britain.
21 April
The ‘Grexit’ Issue and the Problem of Free Trade
(Stratfor) The fundamental point is that the consequences of free trade are not always positive. It is not clear to me how Greece ever recovers without the protections that Germany or the United States had during their early growth period. And since nations do what they have to do, the issue is not the euro, but free trade.
And this is Germany’s dread. It is a nation that exports as much as it consumes, and half of that goes to the European free trade zone. More than anyone, it needs the free trade zone for its own well-being. This is why, however the Germans growl, it is not the Grexit they fear but rising tariffs. The European Union already allows substantial agricultural tariffs and subsidies. If they allow broader tariffs for Greece, then when does it stop? And if they don’t, and Greece crumbles socially, where does that stop?
19 April
What would happen if Britain left the EU?
David Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership should he be re-elected, and our own survey came out clearly in favour of the idea. Many experts, though, are horrified at the idea of quitting the EU.
(The Guardian) The arguments on either side are clear. If you’re a Eurosceptic, the impositions of European Union bureaucracy are daily infuriations, with Britain supposedly ceding control to Brussels of immigration policy, of its legal system, of its famously curved cucumbers. Britain contributes a small fortune to the European Union budget each year (somewhere between £8bn and £20bn, depending on whom you believe) and that’s after the hard-won common agricultural policy rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher in 1984 (when Britain was the second poorest of the EEC members). One of the main arguments employed by those in favour of remaining in the EU is simply how difficult it would prove to leave. We are deeply integrated with our European allies – economically, militarily and culturally. It’s likely that Brexit (and what an ugly neologism it is) would lead to plummeting stock markets and an economic recession, with losses to GDP calculated by the Centre for Economic Performance at up to 9.5% – worse than the 2008 financial crisis. Parliament’s joint committee on national security strategy has warned that leaving the EU would risk “crucial connections being missed” in the war on terror. Brexit would mean visas for visits to France, annual driving tests for the British inhabitants of the Costa del Sol (if they’re allowed to stay at all), and could well reignite calls for Scottish independence.
Millionaire businessman wins Finland election
(Reuters) – A millionaire former telecoms executive touted as a technocrat capable of rescuing Finland from economic slump won Sunday’s parliamentary election, vote predictions showed, but he may need support of a Euro-skeptical populist party to form a coalition. … Sipila has said he is open to including the Finns Party in a coalition, even though they could complicate ties with Europe because they oppose bailouts and want to kick Greece out of the euro zone.
12 April
Anders Borg: Why Europe Needs to Save Greece
(Project Syndicate) The fundamental problem underlying Greece’s economic crisis is a Greek problem: the country’s deep-rooted unwillingness to modernize. Greece was subject to a long period of domination by the Ottoman Empire. Its entrenched political and economic networks are deeply corrupt. A meritocratic bureaucracy has not emerged. Even as trust in government institutions has eroded, a culture of dependency has taken hold.
The Greeks, it can be argued, have not earned the right to be saved. And yet a Greek exit from the euro is not the best option for either Greece or for the European Union. Whether or not the Greeks are deserving of assistance, it is in Europe’s interest to help them. … as bad as Greece’s economy and political culture may be, the consequences of the country’s exit from the euro are simply too dire to consider. In the end, such an outcome would be the result of a political decision, and the European values at stake in that decision trump any economic considerations. …
Increased tension caused by the conflict in Ukraine risks destabilizing other parts of the continent. Expelling Greece into such an unstable international environment would leave the region more vulnerable to those – particularly Russia’s current leaders – who believe they would benefit from a weaker, less unified Europe.
9 April
The Eurozone’s False Recovery
By Philippe Legrain
(Project Syndicate) The eurozone economy is set to do a bit better in 2015, but not because of the policies demanded by Germany. And it is likely to be a temporary bounce, not the start of a sustained recovery. To overcome its balance-sheet recession, the eurozone needs to clean up its banks, reduce the crushing overhang of mostly private debt, redress the huge shortfall in investment, eliminate barriers to enterprise, and tackle the deflationary drag of German mercantilism. And that is why the eurozone will not escape its problems anytime soon.
25 February
EU Commission approves proposals for single energy market
(BBC) The Energy Union plan would give the Commission more influence in the negotiation of gas supply contracts.
It is partly designed to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, at a time of tension over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The proposals still need to be approved by member states and the European Parliament.
The Commission says they will give customers more choice, bring down prices and cut down on the use of fossil fuels.
“This is about Europe acting together, for the long term,” said Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“I want the energy that underpins our economy to be resilient, reliable, secure and increasingly renewable and sustainable.”
However critics accuse the Commission of trying to wrest control from member states, while green groups say it should be doing more to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
3 February
Philippe Legrain: Welcome to the Backlash Era, Europe
From Greece to Spain to France, radical parties are making gains. And the Eurocrats have no one to blame but themselves.
(Foreign Policy) While the immediate focus is on the showdown between the new Greek government and eurozone authorities over demands for debt relief — and the (unlikely) possibility that Greece could end up ejected from the currency union — Athenian defiance is already having wider political repercussions.
Long accustomed to treating Greece as an unruly but ultimately submissive colony, horrified German policymakers and their eurozone minions can scarcely believe that it is in outright insurrection.
… the eurozone as a whole is too big and global demand too weak for everyone to follow Germany’s beggar-thy-neighbor strategy of suppressing wages to subsidize exports.
Nor is it politically sustainable for the eurozone to be run, in effect, by a German hegemon that acts in its narrow interests as a creditor rather than in the broader interests of the monetary union as a whole. If countries are to share a currency, they must do so as equals, with EU institutions representing the common interest, rather than acting as instruments for creditors to impose their will on debtors.
2 February
What Was Really Being Talked About in Davos
To be sure, the Forum once again generated news and social content about business trends, societal needs, industry insights and new voices in the global economy. But the real conversations in the hallways were that global business leaders are more concerned over the threat of Euro collapse than debating problems of income inequality.
26 January
Greece turns, Europe wobbles
Across Europe, Syriza’s victory was welcomed (and deplored) as a blow to austerity
(The Economist) SYRIZA’S unequivocal victory in Sunday’s Greek elections reverberated all over Europe. It had been widely assumed that the left-wing populists and their charismatic young leader, Alexis Tsipras (pictured), would win a plurality of the votes, but the margin of victory was at the high end of expectations. In other European countries, Syriza’s win gave inspiration to populist anti-austerity parties on the left and right. European governments, meanwhile, issued diplomatic congratulations to the victors, while quietly worrying that the deals struck during years of negotiations, to rescue Greece from default and keep it in the euro zone, will now be torn open.
Nobel winner: Germany’s the problem, not Greece
(CNBC) Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told CNBC on Monday that the euro zone should stay together but if it breaks apart, it would be better for Germany to leave than for Greece. Under that scenario, Germany would find out just how much it needs the euro to stay together, he added, and possibly be more willing to help out the countries that are struggling. “The hope was, by having a shared currency, they would grow together.” But he said that should work both ways.
The risk of a sovereign default in Greece has increased after the anti-austerity party Syriza won Sunday’s snap elections, raising concerns over the possibility of a Greek exit from the euro zone.
Greece is not the only economy struggling under the euro, and that’s why a new approach is needed, Stiglitz said. “The policies that Europe has foisted on Greece just have not worked and that’s true of Spain and other countries.”

Greece’s Syriza To Form Government After Election Victory

(AP) — Radical left leader Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister Monday after forming a surprise alliance with a small right-wing nationalist party Independent Greeks, signaling possible confrontation over the country’s bailout.Tsipras has promised to renegotiate Greece’s massive bailout agreements, but has vowed not to take any unilateral action against lenders from other eurozone countries.
Greece election: Anti-austerity Syriza wins election
(BBC) Syriza’s result will send shockwaves through Europe, the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt in Athens reports.
23 January
Greece’s solidarity movement: ‘it’s a whole new model – and it’s working’
Citizen-run health clinics, food centres, kitchens and legal aid hubs have sprung up to fill the gaps left by austerity – and now look set to play a bigger role under a Syriza governmen
22 January

ECB launches 1 trillion euro rescue plan to revive euro economy

(Reuters) – The European Central Bank took the ultimate policy leap on Thursday, launching a government bond-buying program which will pump hundreds of billions in new money into a sagging euro zone economy.
The ECB said it would purchase sovereign debt from this March until the end of September 2016, despite opposition from Germany’s Bundesbank and concerns in Berlin that it could allow spendthrift countries to slacken economic reforms.
Together with existing schemes to buy private debt and funnel hundreds of billions of euros in cheap loans to banks, the new quantitative easing program will release 60 billion euros ($68 billion) a month into the economy, ECB President Mario Draghi said.
By September next year, more than 1 trillion euros will have been created under quantitative easing, the ECB’s last remaining major policy option for reviving economic growth and warding off deflation. A message from Davos: Quantitative easing alone won’t solve Europe’s ills
14 January
Pegida movement’s marches attract thousands as hatred of Islam and immigrants sweeps across Germany in the wake of Paris attacks
(The Independent, UK) The controversial anti-Islamic Pegida movement and terror attacks in neighbouring France have polarised Germany, bringing thousands on to the streets in protest against racism and in support of press freedom. But there are disturbing signs that anti-immigrant xenophobia is on the increase.
Charlie Hebdo fallout: Specter of fascist past haunts European nationalism
(Reuters) [Marine] Le Pen is at the forefront of a European-wide nationalist resurgence — one that wants to evict from their homelands people they view as Muslim subversives. She and other far-right nationalists are seizing on some legitimate worries about Islamic militancy — 10,000 soldiers are now deployed in France as a safety measure — in order to label all Muslims as hostile to traditional European cultural and religious values.
The real aim of today’s would-be authoritarians — politicians who appeal to the public’s desire for an iron hand — is to present themselves as legitimate leaders who are saying what the public really thinks but is afraid to say. And these far-right leaders are indeed increasingly popular.
8 January
Paris Attack Underscores a Deeper Malaise | Stratfor
Wednesday’s deadly attack against a French satirical publication has the potential to upset relations between European states and their Muslim citizenries. The strategic intent behind such attacks is precisely to sow this kind of crisis, as well as to influence French policy and recruit more jihadists. Even though Islamist extremism is, at its core, an intra-Muslim conflict, such incidents will draw in non-Muslims, exacerbating matters.
7 January
A Brutal Awakening in France
The nation is as unified as it’s ever been after the Charlie Hebdo killings. Can it last?
(Politico) … the murders were jolting also because they hit France at a particularly vulnerable moment—a time of deep questioning among the French people about French identity, the place of immigrants in the country and the compatibility of Islam with its core values. And they took place in a worryingly disoriented political context, with a president who is widely disavowed even within his own party; an opposition that was until recently in disarray and remains fundamentally divided; and a far-right party, the National Front led by Marine Le Pen, that gives every appearance of being the most ideologically coherent and electorally potent force in French politics. So the possibility that political expediency—and a backlash against minorities—will win out over the responsible forbearance so far on display cannot be ruled out.

One Comment on "Europe & EU 2015"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson January 27, 2015 at 2:38 pm ·

    Re Greek election outcome
    Suggest that we draw a sharp distinction between the EU and the Eurozone. Membership in the Eurozone can only be sustained by countries with governments that have political support for the discipline necessary to avoid state bankruptcy. In the wider EU where a country keeps control over its currency, adjustments can take place by devaluation/revaluation against the Euro. The benefits of free trade and the free movements of capital and labour can still be had, but payments across borders become slightly more costly.
    Whatever happens, Greece did get considerable unintended foreign aid so far. This will never be recovered. Whatever their intentions, since their new Minister of finance is a Marxist professor, not much good is likely to come out of this for Greece. TD

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