Hullabaloo / Down With Tyranny, By Gaius Publius, May 15
I haven’t written much about Greece lately, but there’s quite a story going on. It’s not that difficult to follow, but you have to be careful whom you read. Conventional wisdom (backed by corporate, pro-austerity media outlets here and abroad) says it’s a morality tale — bad Greeks who went into too much debt and now they can’t pay up. Good German bankers want their money and are reluctant to forgive bad deeds because it might encourage other debt-owing entities to seek debt relief as well. They’re calling that “moral hazard,” fear that a bailout might encourage more bad behavior. There must be consequences, or so they think.
The bottom line of those who tell this tale — Greece provides a place for lovers of austerity (like cuts to social programs) to point and sneer. Their refrain, which I’m sure you’ve heard, is “We don’t want to end up like Greece, do we?”
The reality of the Greek situation is different — not hard to understand, just different.
Gallic nation threatens to blow Europe’s Franco-German axis apart, warns former Italian prime minister.
The Telegraph, By Szu Ping Chan, March 21
France has become Europe’s “big problem”, according to the former prime minister of Italy, who warned that anti-Brussels sentiment and the rise of populist parties in the Gallic nation threatened to blow the bloc’s Franco-German axis apart.
Mario Monti – who was dubbed “Super Mario” for saving the country from collapse at the height of the eurozone debt crisis – said France’s “unease” with the single currency had already created tensions between Europe’s two largest economies.
“In the last few years we have seen France receding in terms of actual economic performance, in terms of complying with all the European rules, and above all in terms of its domestic public opinion – which is turning more and more against Europe,” he told The Telegraph.
Tens of thousands fill Spanish capital in support of Podemos, as anti-austerity message surges in polls.
Al Jazeera, January 31
Tens of thousands of people have marched in Madrid on Saturday in support of the anti-austerity party Podemos, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Syriza, Greece’s new leaders.
Protesters chanted “Yes we can!” as they made their way from Madrid city hall to the central Puerta del Sol square. Podemos and its anti-austerity message have been surging in polls ahead of local, regional and national elections this year. Podemos (“We Can”) was formed just a year ago but gained international attention after winning five seats in elections for the European Parliament last May.
Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid, came to the demonstration with her family. Fernandez, who lives with her husband on a combined pension worth about $790 a month, said she used to vote for Spain’s Socialist party but had lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies. “People are fed up with the political class,” Fernandez said. “If we want to have a future, we need jobs,” she said.
Like Syriza, Podemos has found popular support by targeting corruption and rejecting a European austerity program aimed at lifting struggling economies out of a deep crisis. After his Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election on Jan. 25, Alexis Tsipras promised that five years of austerity, “humiliation and suffering” imposed on Greece by international creditors were over.
originally posted Jan 23
Huffington Post, By Pavlos Tsimas, January 22
On Sunday at 7:00 p.m. in Greece when the ballots are closing and the first exit polls are released in Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, London, Frankfurt and New York, all the political and financial decision-makers — and people who assist in making such decisions — will be staring at their computer screens, ready to read and interpret those numbers.
The upcoming elections in Greece are undeniably a global event, whose importance transcends Greece’s borders. The importance lies in the fact that these elections are part of a series of critical elections in Europe, from the British elections in May to Spain’s elections in November.
Euronews, December 29
On January 1, 2015 Lithuania will be the last Baltic nation to join the growing number of EU states to have adopted the euro. Like Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania is hoping for more investment and lower borrowing.
The switch coincides with steps towards greater energy independence and requests for more NATO troops in Lithuania, marking a new shift away from Moscow. But half those polled in this state of three million do not welcome the euro.
“It is all a horror movie,” elderly Laima Krecikiene said outside a supermarket by the border. “Don’t you understand? Can you imagine how little money people in the villages have? Just look at the prices, they shot up in anticipation of the euro.”
When Lithuania adopts the euro, it will leave just 11 different currencies in the EU: Bulgaria’s lev, Britain’s pound, Croatia’s kuna, the Czech koruana, Denmark’s krone, Hungary’s forint, the Polish złoty, Romania’s leu, the Swedish krona and Swiss franc.
Reuters, By George Georgiopoulos, December 31
Athens – Greece formally dissolved parliament on Wednesday ahead of a general election on Jan. 25 that has cast its international bailout into doubt and set financial markets on edge just as the euro zone grapples with renewed signs of weakness.
The traditional decree calling new elections was posted on the door to parliament two days after lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ candidate for president, automatically triggering a return to the polls.
The Jan. 25 vote will mark a showdown between Samaras’ conservative New Democracy party, which imposed unpopular budget cuts under Greece’s bailout deal, and the leftwing Syriza party of Alexis Tsipras, who wants to cancel austerity measures along with a chunk of Greek debt.
Opinion polls show Syriza holding a lead over New Democracy, although its margin has narrowed to about three percentage points in the run-up to the vote.
The ugly ramifications of the Trade in Services Act (TiSA)
Wolf Street, By Don Quijones, December 25
Much has been written, at least in the alternative media, about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), two multilateral trade treaties being negotiated between the representatives of dozens of national governments and armies of corporate lawyers and lobbyists (on which you can read more here, here and here). However, much less is known about the decidedly more secretive Trade in Services Act (TiSA), which involves more countries than either of the other two.
At least until now, that is. Thanks to a leaked document jointly published by the Associated Whistleblowing Press and Filtrala, the potential ramifications of the treaty being hashed out behind hermetically sealed doors in Geneva are finally seeping out into the public arena.
While Europe’s scientists were watching Rosetta, EU/EC President Juncker quietly scrapped the role of his top scientific adviser. What does this mean for the future of evidence-based policy in Europe?
The Guardian, By James Wilsdon, November 13
Yesterday was a moment of celebration for European science. Although the precise fate of the Philae probe remains unclear, the remarkable achievements of the Rosetta mission reflect the noblest ideals of pan-European research: 2000 scientists and engineers from across the member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) pooling their resources and expertise in pursuit of new knowledge. Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s director-general, described it as “a great great day, not only for ESA, but…I think for the world.”
But while the eyes of Europe’s scientific community were fixed firmly upwards, back on earth, in the corridors of Brussels, a less edifying plan began to unfold. Borrowing a trick from the Jo Moore school of media management, the European Commission chose the evening before the Rosetta landing to confirm quietly that its most senior scientific role, that of chief scientific adviser (CSA) to its president, is being scrapped.
Artur Mas says symbolic poll is a ‘lesson in democracy’ and calls for a binding referendum on independence
The Guardian, By Ashifa Kassam, November 10
Barcelona – Catalan leader Artur Mas vowed to step up the push for independence after early results from Sunday’s symbolic vote showed that four out of five voters in the region backed breaking away from Spain.
With more than 2m votes cast, Mas called the symbolic referendum a “lesson in democracy, spelled out in capital letters”. He said he would send a letter on Monday to Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, urging him to confront “the Catalan question” with a formal, binding referendum on independence.
“We want to decide a new political future. All nations have a right to do so and mature democracies respect that,” said Mas.
German Chancellor Merkel warns Britain over plans to try curbing EU immigration from other member states
Al Jazeera, November 3
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned British Prime Minister David Cameron that putting limits on immigration from other European Union nations would be a “point of no return” that could sharply increase the risk of Britain leaving the European Union.
The German newspaper Der Spiegel, citing unnamed sources in Merkel’s office and the German foreign ministry, reported on Sunday that Merkel was becoming worried, for the first time, that a British exit from the EU — often dubbed “Brexit” in the media — was a real possibility.
Under growing pressure from the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) ahead of a May 2015 national election, Cameron’s Conservatives have said they would try to cap immigration from certain EU member states if they are re-elected.
The EU, a bloc of 28 countries, was formed in the aftermath of World War II with the aim of preventing future conflict by increasing economic and political integration between member states. EU citizens are allowed to stay in another member country for up to three months without registration, and to live there indefinitely if they are financially independent. The same right applies to their family members, according to Migration Policy Institute Europe (MPI), a Brussels-based research group.
European Union leaders agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and set renewable energy targets.
Al Jazeera, October 24
European Union leaders have reached what they described as the world’s most ambitious climate change targets for 2030, paving the way for a new UN-backed global treaty next year.
The 28 leaders on Friday finally overcame divisions at an EU summit in Brussels to reach a deal including a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent compared to 1990 levels.
They also agreed on 27 percent targets for renewable energy supply and efficiency gains, despite of reservations from some member states about the cost of the measures.
“Deal! At least 40 percent emissions cut by 2030. World’s most ambitious, cost-effective, fair EU 2030 climate energy policy agreed,” EU president Herman Van Rompuy tweeted.
New York Times, By Peter Baker, Alan Cowell and James Kanter, July 29
Washington — The United States and Europe kicked off a joint effort on Tuesday intended to curb Russia’s long-term ability to develop new oil resources, taking aim at the Kremlin’s premier source of wealth and power in retaliation for its intervention in Ukraine.
In announcing coordinated sanctions, American and European leaders went beyond previous moves against banking and defense industries in an effort to curtail Russia’s access to Western technology as it seeks to tap new Arctic, deep sea and shale oil reserves. The goal was not to inhibit current oil production but to cloud Russia’s energy future.
The new strategy took direct aim at the economic foundation of Russia, which holds the largest combined oil and gas reserves in the world. The growth of the oil industry in the last two decades has powered Russia’s economic and geopolitical resurgence since the collapse of the Soviet Union and enriched allies of President Vladimir V. Putin. Russia pumps about 10.5 million barrels of oil a day, making it among the largest producers.
AP: Australia rules out new sanctions against Russia
The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, June 4
The way we are going, the whole world will end up with zero interest rates or some variant of quantitative easing before long. Such is the overwhelming power of deflation in countries with burst credit bubbles. Such too is the implication of a global savings rate that has spiralled to an all-time high of 25pc of GDP, starving the world of demand.
Ian Welsh wrote, and we’ve commented, because while Ian provides penetrating analysis, there is no suggestion of solutions, for example those on which Marine Le Pen campaigns, which seem cogent: Restore the Franc, Restore Sovereignty, and Control Multiculturalism.
BBC, May 25
Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France’s PM called a “political earthquake”.
While the French National Front and UK Independence Party both appear headed for first place, 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.
Roundup of the damage at the link.