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China Pledges to Help EU on Debt and Investment (6/30)

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Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was welcomed with open arms on a trip to three EU states on a four-day trip beginning on June 25 that involved visits to Hungary, Britain and – on a larger scale – Germany. The theme of his European swing was a “new chapter” in China’s relations with Europe, apparently signaling a change in the longstanding Chinese attitude of dismissing the EU as a significant international player.

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Europe Agrees With U.S. on Afghan Mission: Time to Start Pulling Troops (6/23)

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In Europe, President Obama’s declaration on Afghanistan that the tide of war has turned and that American troops be steadily withdrawn was met with enthusiasm – and no dissent – both from countries that have contributed heavily to the war effort and to those, such as Germany, that have been reluctant partners in the campaign.

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Political Failures of Greece's Democracy May Doom Economic Future (6/20)

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With Athens’ new debt bail-out hanging in the balance this week, the economic situation -- even for a comparatively small EU country such as Greece – could hardly be more dire. Even now, however, the country’s overall accounts might be susceptible to a recovery via a combination of international help and Greek commitment. But a growing threat to that formula for success is the increasingly obvious failure of Greece’s political class. After years of shirking responsibilities for the country's long-term future, Greek leaders may be unable at this point to rally the nation to face a major crisis.

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Croatia’s Progress to EU Should Encourage Other Balkan States (6/16)

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Croatia passed a crucial hurdle in its pursuit of EU membership when the European Commission gave formal approval June 10 to its accession application. Endorsement by EU heads of state is now considered only a formality, and Croatia’s tentative entry date is July 1, 2013.

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E.coli Epidemic: Germany Today, U.S. Tomorrow (6/10)

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The E.coli epidemic in Germany has scared people across Europe: more than 30 are dead (more than in the nuclear accident in Japan) and up to 3,000 people are sick; restaurants have posted signs explaining that they are not serving vegetables (even tomatoes in sandwiches); consumers are frightened about eating fresh vegetables, even from organic growers; farmers and businesses have lost crops worth of hundreds of millions of euros and the health authorities face a mystery that they have been slow to solve.

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U.S. Lambasts European Allies for Failing NATO (6/10)

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In strong terms of condemnation rarely heard from a U.S. secretary of defense, Robert Gates chose his last appearance at a NATO ministerial conference to admonish the European allies that their failure to maintain their military has put at risk the U.S. commitment to the transatlantic alliance. 

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Trichet Says Eurozone Will Need a “Finance Ministry” (6/9)

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In a valedictory speech before leaving the European Central Bank in October at the end of his eight-year term, Jean-Claude Trichet called for the creation – eventually – of a central finance ministry for the eurozone with powers to intervene in the budgetary and economic decisions of member states.

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Lagarde Broadening Support to Head IMF (6/9)

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Christine Lagarde, France’s minister of finance, seems set to emerge as the leading candidate for the post of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, succeeding Dominique Strauss-Kahn, himself a former French Finance Minister. Formal nominations for the post are due on Friday, June 10.

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Why Is Merkel Getting Red-Carpet Welcome in Washington (6/6)

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The Obama administration is extending an exceptionnally warm reception to Chancellor Angela Merkel even though she recently opposed Washington on Libya and on so many economic issues. Why?

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Why Is Merkel Getting Red-Carpet Welcome in Washington? (6/6)

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The Obama administration is extending an exceptionnally warm reception to Chancellor Angela Merkel even though she recently opposed Washington on Libya and on so many economic issues. Why?

One possible answer, coming from Transatlantic Academy director Stephen F. Szabo, is a complex U.S. calculation that a reluctant Merkel and a reluctant Germany must eventually face up to Berlin's role as the only candidate to fill a gaping power vacuum and lack of leadership in Europe.

"Washington does not see Germany or its Chancellor filling the vacuum being left by the EU and the United States, but sees no other realistic alternative. It calculates that Berlin will soon realize that the United States will not play the leadership role in Europe it has over the past seven decades and will have no choice but to lead or flounder, so Washington hopes that by treating Angela Merkel as Europe’s leader she will start to act like it."

Szabo's Germano-centric interpretation of U.S. policy in Europe is open to many objections and counter-arguments -- notably the axiom that Germany has always needed France as its ally to play a leading role in Europe. That seems to remain true today, with Paris siding with Berlin in seeking better eurozone goverance as the quid pro quo for more financial aide to debt-burdened economies. And it is France and Britain that have led the NATO-run intervention in Libya. Of course, Mr. Szabo's argument focuses on the long run run, not the immediate present. But the long run may be too remote for Merkel to matter or indeed for Germany to bring to bear its economic and its latent military power. So the alleged U.S. hope may be so remote that it is misplaced.

That may be. But Szabo argues that Washington and Berlin and the rest of the West have no alternative.but to try convincing Berlin to assume more burdens and more leadership.

His article is not available on-line but here is a copy of the e-mail version he has circulated:

"Why Merkel Matters?" by Stephen F. Szabo

WASHINGTON -- The official visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the United States this week and the decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom have raised some eyebrows in Washington.  Why roll out the red carpet and present this honor to someone who has been a reluctant partner at best, who takes the Chinese position in its currency dispute with the United States, who has dithered over the European debt crisis and provided uncertain leadership in Europe, and whose government abstained on the UN Security Council vote on actions in Libya, joining both China and Russia in the process?

Granted, the Medal of Freedom was to be awarded in February, long before the Libya abstention, but Merkel had to postpone her trip to receive it. Yet she will still receive a warm welcome in Washington.  Why?

First, on Libya, the U.S. government itself was divided over what to do to confront the possibility of mass murder in Libya, changing its course at the last minute without much warning to the Germans and other European partners. Developments since the initial use of NATO force against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have tended to reinforce Germany’s concerns and the American public and a good part of the Congress has largely turned against American involvement in this action. Still, Americans expected Germany to be on board in a UN-, NATO-, and Arab League-sanctioned action to prevent another Srebrenica.  In abstaining, Merkel has clearly broken two fundamental pillars of German foreign policy, namely that Germany should never again go it alone and should never again tolerate genocide or mass murder. There is no doubt that she has lost a great deal of credibility in Washington over the past month, not only over Libya but also over her panicky reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster and her inept role in the European financial crisis.  The strong Chancellor of her first term has been replaced by an image of a vacillating tactical politician in her second term.

Yet Washington will welcome her with outstretched arms -- including half of both the U.S. and German cabinets taking part in events and a lunch hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- because it will celebrate the partner it wants not the partner it has.  Ever the realist, Obama understands that Germany is now clearly the most powerful and important power in Europe.  The United Kingdom may still hold the affections of many in Washington and remains the most militarily capable and reliable American ally in Europe, but Germany is Europe’s emerging power.  Germany’s economic revival and rise stands in sharp contrast not only to the decline of the American economy but to the state of most of the European economies as well. It is now a global economic power ranking second behind China in terms of exports and accounting for roughly half of all European exports to China.  Its private sector is a model for how to upgrade and maintain an industrial base in a global market. Its social welfare state may be creaking but stands in robust contrast to its American counterpart.

Washington had hoped that, following the Lisbon treaty, Europe would emerge as a key partner for an America that is fiscally strained and facing daunting strategic challenges in the Middle East and Asia. While these hopes remain, even the most Europhile Americans are disillusioned with the state of post-Lisbon Europe and have received a clear message from the big European powers -- especially Germany and France -- that they should deal with them rather than Brussels on key foreign and defense policies. And when Washington looks to these powers, it sees that Germany is the indispensable power in the Old Continent.  It is the key player on Russia policy and is also important for policies in the countries between Russia and the EU. It remains committed to keeping its military contingent in Afghanistan and remains key on Iran sanctions.  It will be the prime player in helping to avert a spread of the European financial crisis to America. As the United States shifts its attention toward Asia and to problems at home, it will need to rely on Berlin to manage European stability.

Yet Washington does not see Germany or its Chancellor filling the vacuum being left by the EU and the United States, but sees no other realistic alternative. It calculates that Berlin will soon realize that the United States will not play the leadership role in Europe it has over the past seven decades and will have no choice but to lead or flounder, so Washington hopes that by treating Angela Merkel as Europe’s leader she will start to act like it.

                                               Stephen F. Szabo directs the Transatlantic Academy in Washington.

 

 

 




 



 
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Why Merkel Is Getting Red-Carpet Welcome in Washington (6/6)

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The Obama administration is extending an exceptionally warm reception to Chancellor Angela Merkel even though she recently opposed Washington on Libya and on so many economic issues. Why?

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Rising Backlash Against EU Austerity (6/6)

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As the eurozone debt crisis mounts and spreads, the austerity policies put in place by the worst-hit European countries are taking a political toll that could limit leaders’ decisions in their ultimate choices about Europe’s future.
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