Edit

EU Urgency Mounts as Greece and Eurozone Near Brink (9/28)

Email Print

The head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, delivered a challenging “state of the union” speech for the EU warning that the union faces the toughest challenge in its half-century history, which he said can only be met by member states agreeing to be more integrated in the way they run their finances.

Read more...
 
Edit

Euro Crisis Recognized As Challenge for Global Economy (9/23)

Email Print

Fears have spread through markets and finance ministries that the debt burdens and other problems in the eurozone could help plunge the world into a global recession.

With Washington now publicly engaging with European governments on these issues, a cogent analysis of the stakes for the U.S. and the limits of leverage for the Obama administration in promoting solutions appeared on NPR, the national U.S. public radio network.

Read more...
 
Edit

Food-Safety Standards Are Investment for Health and for Consumer Confidence (9/21)

Email Print

Recent outbreaks in food-borne illness in both Europe and the U.S. – such as the E.coli episode this summer in Germany (that affected some transatlantic travellers) and the U.S. scare and recall involving salmonella-infected ground turkey meat – have underscored the need for better protection and inspection of foodstuffs and other agricultural products.

But efforts to tackle the issue are encountering problems on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular, funding problems have beset Congressional-mandated reforms in the U.S.

Read more...
 
Edit

Crisis Concern Escalates in Europe; All Eyes on Germany (9/14)

Email Print

Nervousness about a possible default on Greek debt visibly rippled throughout Europe last week. Calm returned, at least temporarily, after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers Friday, attended by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – the first time a U.S. Treasury Secretary has participated in this kind of a eurozone ministerial meeting. In an interview earlier this week Geithner said, “I think they [European leaders] recognize they’re going to have to do more to earn the confidence of the world.”

Read more...
 
Edit

EU and U.S. Each Address Critical Food Safety Issues (9/13)

Email Print

With recent outbreaks in food-borne illness in both Europe and the US, particularly the E.coli outbreaks from this summer in Germany and the U.S., and the salmonella-infected ground turkey recall in the States as well, it has become evident that cross-Atlantic contamination is a real threat. However, before even creating a comprehensive, cooperative transatlantic approach to food safety, each side is dealing with its own domestic problems in narrowing the gap between food safety legislation and actual implementation.

In the U.S., despite the signing of the Food Safety Modernization Bill (FSMA) last December, the safety law has remained unfunded. And with the new “supercommittee” created as a result of the debt-ceiling issue, the law will most likely continue to remain simply words on paper. With Congress under pressure to make only spending cuts, the supercommittee will be unlikely to allocate funds for provisions in the bill such as extra inspections and food testing. In addition, the House of Representatives has passed its 2012 Agricultural Funding Bill, which has slashed almost 14 percent of the overall USDA and FDA’s funding.

In Europe, the structure is more convoluted. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) serves as a risk assessor, which is separate and different from risk management. As the risk assessor, EFSA produces scientific opinions and advice which serve as guidelines to the European Commission in drafting food safety policy and legislation. However, EFSA is not involved in monitoring, legislation creation, or implementation of adopted safety laws. Implementation is carried out by individual member states, who receive no funds from the EU for this purpose. The European Commission is tasked with monitoring, including inspections.  The German case seems to highlight a weakness in this system. Germany, on its own, initially blamed Spain for the E.coli outbreak. However, this turned out to be wrong. After concluding that the outbreak came from North German bean sprouts, the fallout from the false accusations by Germany against Spain has caused financial damage to the Spanish agricultural sector.  As a result Spain is seeking monetary damages.

In discussion with “European Affairs,” Carlos Alvarez Antolinez, Minister-Counselor of the EU’s Washington Delegation for Food Saftey, Health and Consumer Affairs, confirmed the serious threat of E.coli…. “The fact that the food supply chain is more complex and global than ever before also creates considerable challenges for most countries and certainly for the EU which is the largest importer of food in the world.”

Counselor Antolinez defended the EU’s food safety structure, and stated that it is “comprehensive and integrated (farm to table) and involves independent risk assessment and harmonized controls in all Member States.”  He did admit that the system is not perfect. “Improvements require continued reviewing of both legal requirements and the implementation by the national authorities,” he said.  “The regular monitoring conducted by the inspection service of the European Commission helps to identify areas for improvement,” he added.  According to the counselor, the EC is reviewing a central component of the legislation regarding to official controls and he expects improvements “of effectiveness and efficiency”.

Importantly for transatlantic considerations, Antolinez said:

“There is already good cooperation on food safety with very frequent exchanges between the EU and the US administrations at many levels. However, even if, overall, both systems achieve similar level of protection, there are also some differences in philosophy and standards in some areas.”

Part of this difference comes from the US tendency to promote self-monitoring whereas the EU is more centrally controlled. Despite philosophical differences, Antolinez viewed the FSMA bill as “a good opportunity for convergence via equivalence and comparability determinations.” He also saw opportunities for growth in joint cooperation regarding developing nations’ regulation and implementation abilities.

Antolinez called for increased dialogue and was hopeful that current problem areas would be addressed. “I am optimistic and I think these are interesting times and the future is promising.”

Lorin Speltz is Editorial Assistant at “European Affairs”

 
Edit

EU and U.S. Take Action Against Illegal Fishing (9/8)

Email Print

The United States and European Union signed this week an agreement to fight illegal fishing which, according to EU estimates, costs EU fishermen 23 billion euro per year.  The agreement calls for cooperation and the free flow of information between the EU and US in combating this growing problem.

Read more...
 
Edit

European Expert Suggests "NATO for North Africa" (9/1)

Email Print

A bold suggestion has emerged from the positive military outcome in Libya. Namely, Europe should be thinking long term about creating a "new NATO,” under European control  and called “North Africa Treaty Organization”--  to promote stability in the region that has recently turned so volatile. The author, Giles Merritt, a Brussels-based security expert, notes that Europe has the skills and experience (and enough military punch) to provide backbone for a regional organization on this scale. Its work could start with peacekeeping and nation-building in Libya. The idea sounds  constructive for North Africa and for Europe. But even if European leaders were able to unite on it, the initiative is bound to be a tough sell to the Arab League and the Arab governments that would be directly involved.

 
Edit

French Forces' Performance in Libyan Campaign Wins U.S. Military Respect (8/29)

Email Print

The NATO-led operation in Libya has raised esteem for the French military and their capabilities among their American counterparts, according to this New York Times article reporting how French behavior in the Libyan operation has gained respect in the Pentagon.

Read more...
 
Edit

Amid the Damage, DSK Criminal Case Set to End With Unanswered Questions (8/22)

Email Print

If, as expected, the New York prosecutor drops all charges Dominique Strauss Kahn, the criminal case against him on rape charges will be closed – leaving many questions about what actually happened in the Sofitel incident involving the cleaning woman, Nafissatou Diallo.

Read more...
 
Edit

Dutch Voters Share German Reluctance to Subsidize Euro Laggards (8/18)

Email Print

Germans are not the only European voters who are reluctant to make bigger commitments to bailing out their more profligate neighbors on the eurozone’s periphery. Rather than rescue Greece (and other debt-stricken partners), most Dutch (54 percent) would rather see these countries leave the euro, according to a current public-opinion survey (August 14) by Maurice de Hond, a leading Dutch pollster.

Read more...
 
Edit

EU Stagnation Spurs French-German Bid for Fiscal Ties, Euro Governance (8/16)

Email Print
Europe’s problems with some member states’ excessive debts is escalating into a crisis for the eurozone as a whole as economic growth drops below expectations even in the EU’s best-performing economies.
Read more...
 
Edit

In Eye of Euro Storm, Jean-Claude Trichet at the Helm of ECB (8/9)

Email Print

The president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, has devoted the last three decades of his distinguished career to building a solid currency for Europe. Now, three months from his retirement, Trichet, 68, is waging what seems to be the fiercest struggle of all as he strives to prevent a collapse of his prized euro.

Read more...
 
Edit

Missile-Defense Blocking Russian Reset: A Way Forward With Moscow (8/5)

Email Print

The proposed U.S. missile-defense system in Europe remains a major sticking point in relations with Russia: the recent NATO-Russia Council meeting (July 4) chose to postpone further debate, apparently until after the next NATO summit and into the 2012 U.S. presidential elections. A week after that meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a European Institute-sponsored event in Washington that the impasse on missile defense is a great “impediment” in a generally upward trend in U.S.-Russian ties.

Read more...
 
Edit

Success on Debt Still Risks Damage to U.S. International Financial Image (8/2)

Email Print

The U.S. finally chalked up a success in reaching a Congressional deal to avoid default on the national debt, but considerable “damage may already have been done” to America’s image as a global pillar of financial security and adept manager of economic power.

Read more...