European Public Debt Swings Wildly - Anders Aslund provides an interesting analysis of debt in EU countries, which shows in general that debt is high, mostly over the Maastricht Treaty obligation of 60% of GDP. Moreover the debt levels have swung wildly, contrary to conventional wisdom that debt levels are difficult to change. (3/25)
“What Would Happen if the EU Broke Up?”, Essay by John Bruton, former Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland, EU Ambassador to the U.S. and a member of the European Institute’s Board of Directors. Amb. Bruton thinks EU dissolution as a result of current crises would be a world class disaster and delivers a pungent and hard hitting defense of the EU as “a unique model for democratic rule making”; a crucial model for 21stcentury supra-national governance. The breakup of the euro poses a “serious existential threat” to the entire EU, and must be forestalled by radical steps including the forgiveness of the Greek debt and massive strengthening of the ESM (European Stability Mechanism). Bruton is highly critical of recent UK threats to veto EU budget and to renegotiate terms of EU membership. He notes that 50 percent of UK exports go to EU countries: “The UK wants access to the single market, but is not prepared to pay any entry fee.” Recommended by European Affairs (11/19)
Policy Memo from European Council on Foreign Relations—“Time to Grow up: What Obamas’s Re-Election Means for Europe”. While Europeans by a huge percentage favored Obama in the recent election, this excellent Policy Memo warns that in a second Obama term, Europe should be prepared for an America that seeks a multi-partner world in which the transatlantic relationship will be less special. Accordingly Europe needs to be more self-sufficient and engage the world independently. 11/15
PBS NewsHour Blog - The Rundown: "Cuban Missile Crisis: Memories of a Young Reporter" A rich and personal reminiscence of the Cuban missile crisis, which happened 50 years ago this month, by a then young reporter, Mike Mosettig, who was lucky enough to find himself in the middle of the story. Mosettig is now a regular contributor to European Affairs, and former foreign editor of PBS’s NewsHour.
“The Man Without a Face, The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin,” Riverhead Books, By Masha Gessen, a journalist born in Moscow. She tells the story of Putin’s unlikely rise to the top, starting with his school years as an unpopular bully-boy, and progressing through his undistinguished service in the KGB. His rise to the top came through a series of fortuitous contacts. Gressen, who holds Russian and U.S. citizenship, provides a fresh and interesting account of Putin’s iron grip on the media, elections and government and the personality that helped him get to the top. Recommended by European Affairs (September 6th).
“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All," by Anne-Marie Slaughter, cover story in July/August 2012, “the Atlantic”. Superstar dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and former high level officer in Obama foreign policy team raises a new sheen on an old issue—the gender gap. The article has gone viral on the Internet, with good cause since it probes with intelligence and verve how persistent this issue remains, notwithstanding huge advances. Recommended by European Affairs (June 25)
Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran Justine Revenaz
“Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran,” New York Times, June 1, 2012, by David Sanger provides authoritative confirmation of U.S. role, in conjunction with Israel, in the creation and deployment of the Stuxnet internet virus which disabled 1000 Iranian centrifuge machines at the Natanz plant. The virus later escaped and spread around the world. The aggressive, property destroying use of the internet, perhaps the first cyber war salvo, was code named “The Olympic Games.” The report is based on a book, “Confront and Conceal; Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” to be published this week. Recommended by European Affairs (June 4)
Mobile Moans by The Economist. A crucial reform for the eurozone, in its present economic quicksand, requires changing conditions throughout EU nations to facilitate labor mobility and cross-border migration by job-seeking Europeans. The free movement of workers was supposed to be a safety valve to ease economic adjustment in the eurozone once national currency devaluation was eliminated as a policy tool. But it has not functioned well. In theory, job migration throughout the EU is easy, but there are strong practical disincentives: the absence of pension portability, transaction costs involved in selling a house and buying another, obstacles to transferring professional qualifications. (April 27)
America’s Place in the World by Charles A. Kupchan in The New York Times. Kupchan, author of a new book, “No One’s World: the West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn,” writes that the democratic, secular and free-market consensus synonymous with Western primacy is being challenged with rival models: state-controlled capitalism, political Islam, left-wing populism. For the first time, multiple versions of order and modernity will coexist in an interconnected world. (April 11)
Special Report-Mario Draghi’s Quiet Revolution, by Reuters in NY Times. A comprehensive, behind the scenes look at Mario Draghi’s crucial move to liberalize the money supply made available by the European Central Bank to European banks by creating one trillion new euros available for three year loans a low rate. Some are saying the move has “saved the euro.” Draghi’s European style “quantitative easing” reversed the existing tight money policy advocated by Germany. (3/12)
Schools We Can Envy by Diane Ravitch in The New York Review of Books. Finland's school system is a world class success story -- and perhaps a model? -- for improving public schools. Unlike the U.S. and many European nations' reliance on pupils' test scores as a guide to teachers' performance, Finland's emphasis on investment in teacher training largely avoids the risks of overemphasis on standardized testing. Recommended by European Affairs. (2/22)
Cloud Computing and the Looming Global Privacy Battle by Michael Chertoff in The Washington Post. Chertoff warns in compelling terms that new privacy rules in Europe could have an unintended effect by preventing Europeans from using global cloud computing facilities. Maintaining transatlantic "interoperability" on data flows is seen as vital in stimulating economic growth in Europe (and the U.S.). Recommended by European Affairs. (2/15)
Time to Reform the EU Emission Trading Scheme by Thomas Spencer and Emmanuel Guérin in European Energy Review. The EU’s pioneering Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has come to be seen as largely ineffectual as a cap-and-trade approach to curbing carbons. This comprehensive analysis recommends major reforms to save it. Recommended by European Affairs. (1/27)
Putin’s Canny Politics in Russian Elections by Gregory Feifer in The Washington Post. Putin detractors in the U.S. and elsewhere may be premature in jumping on the United Russia party’s poor showing in the Duma elections as a sign that the leader is starting to lose his grip on power. In the view of this close Russia-watcher, it’s not the party, stupid, it’s Putin. United Russia is only a stalking horse. Recommended by European Affairs. (12/8)
Why America Should Care About the Collapse of European Unity by Simon Schama in The Daily Beast. This perceptive historian of all things transatlantic retraces the reasons for Europeans to pursue "unity in diversity" -- currently via the EU and the euro. The failure of earlier attempts at this in the 20th century cost the world dearly. In its own interest, the U.S. must stand ready to come again to the aid of the "old world." Recommended by European Affairs. (12/5)
Why Isn’t Germany Stepping Up to Save the Euro Zone? by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff in the Washington Post. Kleine-Brockhoff, a member of European Affairs' editorial board, says that in the euro showdown, Europeans may call for German leadership but don’t actually want to be led by Germany -- and don't like the results of the German leadership they've seen so far. This makes Berlin a reluctant hegemon fearful of getting in over its head. Recommended by European Affairs. (12/5)
Euro Crisis and the Transformation of European Democracy by Heather Horn in TheAtlantic.com. EU governments' responses to the sovereign debt challenge have raised fundamental questions about whether Western democracy is still compatible with capitalism -- or indeed compatible with the power of bureaucracy and technocrats that is so prevalent in the EU political system. The debate has resonance in the U.S., too. Recommended by European Affairs. (12/2)
The Tweaker: The Real Genius of Steve Jobs by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. According to this celebrated essayist on science and society, innovation requires not only a genius but also a context of other inventive “tweakers” whose inspirations feed off each other. This insight about the process comes in his review of the magisterial biography, "Steve Jobs," by Walter Isaacon. Recommended by European Affairs. (11/23)
Staring into the Abyss by Edward Carr in The Economist. The crisis of the euro goes to the heart of Europe’s future. In this lucid special report, the magazine’s foreign editor explores the paths for the “European project” to disaster or salvation. A single certainty: Europe needs urgency, not more procrastination. Recommended by European Affairs. (11/11)
The Gridlock Where Debts Meet Politics by David Leonhardt in the New York Times. On both sides of the Atlantic the financial crisis is often blamed on a lack of political will. It is a reality, however, that voters in all these countries remain unwilling or unable to recognize that the West has promised itself more than it can pay for. So beyond the political fecklessness, a philosophical debate remains about who shoulders the costs of a changed social contract. Recommended by European Affairs. (11/8)
Europe’s Two Years of Denials Trapped Greece by Landon Thomas Jr. and Stephen Castle in the New York Times. An International Monetary Fund report in mid-2009 warned of the severity of Greece’s impending debt predicament, but it was ignored or played down by officials anxious to avoid hitting the panic button. The facts, as reported then, are now acknowledged by all the key players. But this well-reported account brings out the cost of delay in facing up to them. Recommended by European Affairs. (11/8)
Rate Expectations: What Can and Cannot be Done about Rating Agencies by Nicolas Véron from the Bruegel think-tank. Credit-rating agencies’ actions have often been controversial recently, prompting debate about their role, including tighter regulation. A more effective approach, says Veron, currently at the Peterson Institute, would be better-standardized public disclosures on risk factors by issuers, thus improving credit-risk assessments. Recommended by European Affairs. (11/2)
Why China Should Help Out Europe by Arvind Subramanian in The New York Times. On what terms should China contribute to the EU's financial bail-out fund? Beijing should demand more power at the IMF, according to this specialist from the respected Peterson Institute. This power-shift would be controversial in Washington. Already since June, China has been talking with Europeans about financial support, as European Affairs blogged at the time. Recommended by European Affairs. (10/28)
Foreign Companies That Aren’t So Foreign by D.C. Denison in the Boston Globe (10/16). European direct investment in the U.S. is a sustaining force for American employment across the country. In Massachusetts, for example, nearly 120,000 people are employed at popular “local” businesses that are actually European-owned companies – mainly from Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Awareness of this transatlantic stake sensitizes people in the Boston area to the implications of the eurozone crisis. Recommended by European Affairs. (10/19)
Unmanned Aerial Warfare: Flight of the Drones in The Economist. This major survey of pilotless aircraft concludes that their growing capabilities may revolutionize warfare. But the American near-monopoly on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will spark their proliferation among nations and also non-state actors (including terrorists), according to Coming Soon: The Drone Arms Race by Scott Shane in The New York Times. Recommended by European Affairs. (10/11)
For the Eurozone, It’s Apocalypse Never by Michael Hirsch of the National Journal. Greece may tumble, but the dominos will not fall or bring down the eurozone, according to a veteran American reporter. He pushes back against the nay-saying about the euro's fate, arguing that the stakes are so high for Europeans that they will embrace previously-unthinkable degrees of federalism rather than let the EU crumble. Recommended by European Affairs (10/6)
Why are Finland’s Schools Successful? By LynNell Hancock from Smithsonian Magazine. Finland is often cited as the benchmark for education as preparation for innovation. Crucially, the Finnish system has shunned standardized testing to measure student progress. Instead, teachers in Finland focus on engaging pupils in the name of equality as part of achieving quality. Recommended by European Affairs. (9/22)
Going Round In Circles Over Traffic Fix (10/5/11) on NPR. “Roundabouts” (traffic circles in the U.S.) can slash commute times, reduce pollution and even limit car accidents. But American city planners have to overcome public fears that traffic circles are dangerous. Britain and other EU countries champion roundabouts. Recommended by European Affairs. (10/5)
“Why French Elites Think DSK Should Make A Comeback” by Arthur Goldhammer from the New Republic. The respected Harvard analyst of French affairs and prolific translator of French books comments here on the DSK’s future prospects, noting that while his approval ratings have reached a low of 23% among the French electorate, French elites are backing him as a valuable source of economic expertise in this time of crisis. A presidential run is not in the offing, but Strauss-Kahn may yet be called back to duty for the Eurozone crisis. Recommended by European Affairs. (8/29)
"It Takes Courage: Christine Lagarde Takes Charge of a Troubled IMF" by Maha Atal from Forbes magazine. This timely and revealing portrait of the new IMF head comes at a moment when IMF prepares to play a potentially crucial role in global economic issues, including the all important stabilization of the eurozone. An unabashed free market fiscal conservative, Lagarde takes over at a nervous moment at IMF, after her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned over allegations of sexual assault in May. She was also recently named by Forbes as the 27th most powerful woman on the globe, in a survey which named German Chancellor Andrea Merkel as number one. Recommended by European Affairs. (8/25)
"Top Ten Myths about the Libya War" by Juan Cole, from Informed Comment. In this insightful overall account, a respected analyst on Arab affairs says that the French and British were motivated to lead the charge on this intervention, probably because they feared a protracted struggle between Qaddafi and an armed opposition would radicalize the situation in Libya, provide an opening there for al-Qaeda and pose direct threats to Europe. The Obama administration came along as a junior partner in this NATO operation. Recommended by European Affairs. (8/23)
Norway's Foreign Minister Says Terrorist Act Will Spur Nation's Cohesion from a PBS Newshour interview with Jonas Gahr Store [transcript, audio, and video]. The Norwegian foreign minister explains that his prosperous country has a good record of immigrant integration but needs to understand and protect itself against racist extremism spread on the internet. Norwegians will become more inclusive now, he predicts, noting that membership in youth organizations as well as political engagement have increased sharply in the wake of the tragedy. But many questions remain to be answered over "dangerious trends" in Norway and across Europe, he says. Garrett Martin's European Affairs article offers a revealing perspective on right-wing extremism in Europe. Recommended by European Affairs. (8/16)
"In Europe, A Right To Be Forgotten Trumps The Memory Of The Internet" from the Atlantic by John Hendel. Internet privacy has long been a transatlantic bone of contention, and now there is a new twist – EU interest in providing a "right to be forgotten" in cyberspace for people who want their personal data to be deleted. A Spanish court is trying such a case, and the European Commission and the European Parliament are exploring the question – raising prospects for another transatlantic divergence on the issue. In the U.S., "courts have consistently ruled in favor of the right to publish the truth about someone's past," overriding any privacy, an expert tells the New York Times. Recommended by European Affairs. (8/10)
"Guardians of Secularism No More" from the National Post by Christopher Hitchens. The recent resignation of the entire Turkish military leadership was an earthquake event, according to Hitchens, who describes it as the end of the post-Ataturk era in which the army guaranteed the country's secular system. Now, he wonders, will the EU – long critical of the military's supreme authority in Turkish politics – be more receptive to a country where there is civilian control of the military – led by Muslims, albeit moderate ones. Recommended by European Affairs. (8/4)
"Time for a U.S. Infrastructure Bank" from Politico by Felix G. Rohatyn, banker and former U.S. ambassador to France. The Obama administration is proposing the creation of a U.S. government-run "infrastructure bank" that would consolidate investments to renew America's ageing roads, bridges and ports. Rohatyn notes that the U.S. is falling badly behind Europe and China in infrastructure modernization and says that this new bank would generate private investment in these projects. Infrastructure financing is "an investment rather than an expense" for U.S. competitiveness and quality of life. Recommended by European Affairs. (7/13)
"Is The British Roundabout Conquering The U.S.?" from BBC News. Transatlantic approaches to managing road traffic and drivers are often different (see previous Must Read story below). They afford opportunities for recognizing “best practices” and lessons to be learned, as this deftly-observed account explains. The differences to be taken into account include not only laws, design philosophies and volume of vehicle flows, but also intrinsic values of national psychology. Recommended by European Affairs. (7/5)
"Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy" from the New York Times. "While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars." Mayors in nearly every major European city, including London, Paris, and Stockholm, are implementing these reforms, designed "to make cities more inviting, with cleaner air and less traffic." Recommended by European Affairs. (6/27)
"The International Criminal Court Bares its Teeth" from The Economist. The ICC, often described as an offspring of European guilt over war crimes in the 1990s, has enjoyed little credibility in Africa or in the U.S. (or in Russia or China). That now may be changing because of Libya and the Obama administration's policy shift to reset the U.S.' "default [position] from hostility to positive engagement." Recommended by European Affairs. (6/8)
"Why the IMF Should Be Led by a European" by Jean-Dominique Giuliani, head of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a think tank promoting stronger EU integration. Despite calls for the next Managing Director to come from the emerging countries in Asia or Latin America, the author makes the case succinctly for the Fund to reserve its top job for a European embodying deeply-rooted Western values such as openness, impartiality and accountability. Recommended by European Affairs. (6/2)
“The Consequentialist: How the Arab Spring remade Obama’s foreign policy,” by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker. Unpredictable events – notably in the Near East -- are driving U.S. diplomacy away from its initial focus on Asia. This detailed account depicts an intelligent President learning on the job as he straddles differing views inside his own team. Written before Bin Laden’s elimination, it posits the Libyan crisis as a new U.S. policy approach of “leading from behind.” Recommended by European Affairs. (5/6)
"A National Strategic Narrative” by Mr. Y. is an aspirational outline for an overall geo-strategic posture for America. Putting it into effect would mean a radical overhaul and a transition toward soft power for the Obama administration's existing policies. But a shift along these lines appears to be supported by senior American security policy-makers including, according to informed speculation by foreign policy savant Fareed Zakaria, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Recommended by European Affairs (4/26).
"In the Plex, How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives," by Steven Levy. Levy, the author of the now classic “The Hackers,” got remarkable access into the Googleplex. He explains how Google founders developed the ground breaking algorithms that have changed the way knowledge is accessed worldwide as well as the equally remarkable algorithms that have enabled Google to provide free internet, gmail and YouTube, while at the same time to reap astonishing revenues and profits. Recommended by European Affairs. (4/22)
"The Fall-out from Libya" by Stanley Pignal. This Financial Times blog post describes the potential EU-wide impact of a possible wave of asylum-seeking refugees fleeing widespread violence in Libya. It explores the EU's work-in-progress on immigration-sharing among member states. As a whole, it provides an excellent overview of the legal and political strands of this complicated question for the EU. Recommended by European Affairs. (3/09)
"A Stopgap for Climate Change" by Elisabeth Rosenthal. A new UN report says: targeting "black carbon" (soot) could immediately begin to protect climate, public health, water and food security, and ecosystems. This idea seems more otimely than ever in a political situation tilted against big programs to curb carbon emissions. See the piece published by European Affairs here, after a European Institute meeting that aired the subject of black carbon in the Arctic.
"When Irish Eyes Are Crying" by Michael Lewis, bestselling author of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. This vivid new magazine account, with names being named, retraces how Ireland saddled its taxpayers with a crushing bill to bail out a handful of rapacious and blundering banks.“Even in an era when capitalists went out of their way to destroy capitalism, the Irish bankers set some kind of record for destruction," he says in his piece, which shows how individual eurozone countries found their own separate ways into the common financial abyss.
"Gomorrah" by Roberto Saviano takes readers into the bowels of the Camorra, a new mafia clan centered on Naples, not Sicily, and on waste-management and other corrupt business, not drugs. This hallucinatory insider account comes from an author who is now hiding under police protection. He documents that "respectable" Europe -- from industrious northern Italy to Scotland's prospering Aberdeen -- depends heavily on these Neapolitan bosses to dispose of waste cheaply by burying it in the soil of the area they control -- and now by exporting the toxins to China. The clans have made the south of Italy the dumping ground for the rich, industrialized north. Recommended by European Affairs.
"Pivotal Poland" in The Economist. Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, in an newly upbeat mood, writes that his country's relations with Russia and Germany have become "more relaxed and comfortable." Now Poland is confident in becoming a player in greater triangular cooperation among the EU, the U.S. and Russia. Recommended by European Affairs.
"Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition" by David Garland. This author argues that fascination with death and mystery murders, combined with the strength of popular support for the institution of capital punishment, contrasts starkly with the situation in Europe, where the death penalty has been largely abolished -- and where popular sentiment often favors the death penalty (at least in polls) but is less relevant to the judicial process. Recommended by The European Institute.
“A Model for Skimping, In Europe” by Anne Applebaum, Nov 16, 2010, Washington Post, identifying a trend of surprisingly successful austerity measures in Europe in response to the financial situation. Recommended by European Affairs.
“The Spectre of a Multipolar Europe,” a recent paper from the European Council on Foreign Relations written by Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard. Recommended by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.
“Reshaping EU-US Relations: A Concept Paper,” a study by Jacques Delors' think tank Notre Europe. Recommended by Jacqueline Grapin.
Recent Blog in “Business Times” by Leon Hadar on trade in a Congress more influenced by GOP. Recommended by Dan Morgan.
New book, “Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?,” by Thomas Geoghegan, makes a strong case that European social democracies, in particular Germany, have some lessons and models that might make life a lot more livable. Recommended by Ann Crittenden.