LATVIA VOTES “NO” ON RUSSIAN AS SECOND OFFICIAL LANGUAGE (3/2)

By Zachary Laven, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

The voting outcome was a resounding “no” – as widely predicted. So what is the background on this peculiar referendum, a reminder of the continuing tension between the Balkans and post-Soviet Russia. With more than 70% turnout, the vote against promoting Russian as the nation’s second official language was 75 percent and reflected the ethnic and linguistic divide between Latvian and Russian speakers. Said a relieved President Andris Berzins, “The vote on a second state language endangered one of the most sacred foundations of the Constitution: the state language.”

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EU FACES CONTINUED DIFFICULTY IN SECURING CASPIAN GAS (3/2)

By Aaron Brinckerhoff, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

Europe’s quest for gas from the Caspian Sea – by-passing the near monopoly supplier Russia -- continues to be dogged by failure to secure a single provider.  The planned Nabucco pipeline, which would run 4,000 kilometers, or nearly 2,500 miles, from eastern Turkey to Austria, has long been the EU’s chief hope of securing a reliable supply of natural gas from the Caspian region--Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iraq. (The name Nabucco comes from the Verdi opera seen by the founding developers of the project.) For years, EU leaders and member states, along with successive U.S. administrations, have regarded this pipeline as crucial for Europe’s long-term security

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GREEK DEBT SUCCESS CONFIRMS EU COMMITMENT TO EURO -- DESPITE HARD ROAD AHEAD (2/23)

BY EUROPEAN AFFAIRS

Greece is the extreme basket case of the euro’s woes, so its apparent rescue from its creditors this week brought a sense of relief to people managing the crisis. The price of the breakthrough was costly both for private bondholders (in terms of their “haircut” in written-off bonds) and to the Greek people (who will have to bear even steeper cuts in payrolls and pensions).

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“MORALIZING CLICHÉS” ABOUT GREEKS MASK THE REAL STRUCTURAL DILEMMA (2/16)

Greece has had to bear the brunt of not only economic hardship but also relentless international criticism that the nation has a bloated public sector and an unsustainable social welfare system and is also beset by rampant systematic corruption and tax evasion.

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ON GREEK DEBT, “OWNERSHIP” OF THE ISSUES IS SPREAD TOO THIN (2/10)

After weeks of agonizing negotiations among Greek government officials, private lenders and other international creditors, the governing coalition in Athens has finally given approval to the latest round of austerity measures in order to receive a second bail-out – in time to meet its deadline for preventing a messy and potentially contagious default on its national debt in March.

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FOR THE NEW EU SANCTIONS ON IRAN, GERMAN SUPPORT HAS BEEN CRUCIAL (2/9)

In the stepped-up Western sanctions on Iran – now at “unprecedented levels” – a significant and enabling development has been the agreement of Germany to participate in the pan-European embargo on Iranian oil after years of reluctance in Berlin to act so strongly against Tehran.

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EU DATA-PRIVACY PLANS FOR OVERHAUL, WITH SOME POTENTIAL PROBLEMS FOR U.S. COMPANIES (1/25)

By Zachary Laven --- European Affairs editorial assistant

The European Commission’s proposal for a sweeping overhaul of rules protecting individuals’ privacy in on-line data was unveiled Wednesday as a modernizing step that could reassure users and streamline procedures for companies in this complex new legal and technical environment.

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EU Agrees To Boycott Iranian Oil, Aligning With Long-Standing U.S. Ban (1/24)

A decision to halt EU oil imports from Iran, taken Monday by a meeting of the EU’s foreign ministers, marks the strongest step taken so far by Europe to counter Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions.

It coincided with an expansion of U.S. sanctions (which have long barred Iranian oil) to include Iran’s third-largest bank. A steeper financial escalation is under active consideration by the Obama administration in the form of action to cut U.S. dealings with Iran’s central bank and press allied capitals to join in isolating Iran financially. Such a move would make it harder for Tehran to use oil revenues for international purchases aimed at strengthening the country’s nuclear program.

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EU – Like White House – Publically Criticizes Terms of Proposed U.S. Law on Internet Piracy (1/20)

 

The top European official dealing with internet matters spoke out publicly against Congressional draft bills penalizing websites for pirating movies as “bad legislation.” Her statement, via Twitter, reflected what her spokesman said was “concern about peoples’ access to the internet.”
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A Weakening Euro Could Now Be Good For Eurozone By Inciting Export Growth (1/11)

Despite the sovereign debt woes of some countries in the eurozone, the euro currency itself has stood up strongly (surprising so to many) in currency markets, particularly against the dollar. That rate has changed in recent weeks, in favor of the dollar: the euro has now depreciated by nearly 10 percent against the dollar. The falling euro's international value could make European exports more competitive globally, particularly those of Germany and Italy. The euro has been "devalued" slightly in currency markets as (1) the U.S. economy has shown signs of revival and as (2) the European Central Bank's policy of maintaining very low interest rates under the bank's new head, Mario Draghi.  If it lasts for six months, a euro "devaluation" of this sort could add a point economic growth in some eurozone countries (and also make existing loans a little cheaper to pay off), analysts say. That, in turn, could spare the EU as a whole from sinking back into recession and facilitate the reform process in troubled eurozone economies such as convalescent Italy.


By European Affairs
 

Havel: A Great Leader of Post-Cold War Europe Who Sought To “Live in Truth” (12/19)

In the era which restored Europe whole and free, Vaclav Havel bears comparison with Nelson Mandela as a leader whose stature was crucial in obtaining a worthy place for his liberated nation.  "His role brought Czechoslovaka into NATO and into the EU much faster than world otherwise have been the case," Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Jiri Schneider said in his tribute to the Czech playwright and president who died this weekend. The comparison is only a loose approximation, with some caveats. The towering resistance figure, of course, is Poland's Lech Walesa, not only in his own country but across eastern and central Europe. A difference between the two hereos is that Havel remained a powerful international voice in the ensuing decade.

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Croatia Signs Treaty to Join EU in 2013: Three Questions to Top Diplomat in U.S. (12/12)

Croatia's leaders signed an EU accession treaty on December 9, putting the country on course for a referendum next year and then full membership in July 2013. Marking the EU’s expansion into the Balkans, the step (after seven years of negotiations) was hailed by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy: “Croatia is a pioneer, demonstrating in a tangible way that the future of the western Balkans as a whole lies in the European Union.” Marking the event, “European Affairs” put three questions to Vice Skracic, Chargé d'Affaires in the Croatian embassy in Washington.

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Britain Marginalizes Itself in EU (12/9)

The outcome of the Brussels summit on December 8th and 9th is a disaster for the UK and also threatens the integrity of the single market, says a well-reported article by Charles Grant, head of the Centre for European Reform, a European-minded but independent think-tank in London.

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Britain Splits With EU In Vetoing Plan for Financial Rules for All 27 Member States (12/9)

The most significant result so far in the crucial euro summit has been British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to opt out of a proposed agreement on national budgets that would have involved some forfeit of national sovereignty. The plan is aimed at restoring future credibility to the euro and, although Britain never adopted the euro and is therefore not in the eurozone, the proposal was desigend to cover all EU member states.

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At “Make-or-Break” Euro Summit, Tighter Unity Can Save EU – and Spare U.S. (12/6)

The fate of the euro and all it implies seems to be at stake in the EU leaders' summit meeting opening Friday. A successful meeting -- meaning one that advances the agenda to create supranational oversight of member states’ budgets -- will keep alive prospects for a reversal of recent market trends and a revival of credibility for the euro.

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Is EU Offering Real “Flexibility” on Fees for Airlines on Carbon Emissions? (12/1)

The neuralgic international dispute on emission fees for airlines has finally jumped to the top of the “transatlantic” in-boxes in Washington and Brussels. The issue has been venomously deadlocked for months, as described in a recent article in European Affairs (which sparked feedback, public and private, from both industry and regulatory circles). But the long-simmering dispute is now approaching a January 1 deadline – trigger date for the EU to start its program on airliners for their carbon emissions over their entire flights anywhere in the world if they use an EU airport.

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Merchant Ships Starting to Carry Armed Guards against Somali Pirates (11/22)

More governments are authorizing their merchant ships to carry weapons for self-defense as Somalia-based pirates step up the tempo and reach of their operations pillaging international shipping across an ever-widening arc from the Gulf of Aden deep into the Indian Ocean.

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Scoring the Eurozone in Crisis: Slippage? Or Progress? (11/21)

UPDATE (11/21):

Spain's election Sunday gave Spanish conservatives their biggest election victory in the country's post-Franco democracy.  The center-right Popular Party, led by incoming prime minister Mariano Rajoy, 56, will have an absolute majority in the lower house allowing it to pass laws without the support of other parties. Rajoy campaigned on a pledge of tough austerity measures that he now promises to carry out -- in effect, rallying to the main thrust of the economic reform program that his party publicly rejected while it was in opposition.

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EU Summit Seems to Mark Turning Point in Long-Running Crisis of Euro and Debt (10/27)

As EU leaders emerged from their marathon negotiations on resolving their nations’ multi-faceted financial crisis, all proclaimed victory while speaking in ways designed to be well-received in their own countries.

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Can Euro Log Jam Be Broken with Help from IMF? Will U.S. Go Along? (10/24)

Too sensitive to be aired extensively in public, a potentially crucial element in this week’s “make-or-break” negotiations on the eurozone’s debt crisis is a possible buy-in by the International Monetary Fund.

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