By Brian Beary in Washington | 22 October 2010

The EU’s drive to get all 27 member states included on the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) has run up against a wall. The view of multiple sources closely monitoring the dossier is that the US Congress will have to pass new legislation before Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and Romania will have any chance of joining the other EU23. Though some on Capitol Hill are sympathetic to their cause, nothing is likely to happen until 2011 at the earliest. Even if Congress changes the rules to make it easier for the EU4 to enter, they still need to be invited to join by the US administration and there is little indication that the Obama administration is interested in expanding the programme.

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(October 7) Notwithstanding a “buy America” requirement, European railroad engineering firms are lining up eagerly and in force to enter what they see as a modern day “gold rush” to get a stake in the U.S. high speed rail market, fueled by President Obama’s $8 billion in stimulus funds.  So far, 13 routes in a wide geographic area, including California and Florida, have been proposed.  See recent European Affairs article raising the curtain on this push.

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On September 30, 2010, The European Institute held its Annual Meeting of the Members and Board of Advisors at the Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.  Discussions focused on U.S. and European efforts to enact comprehensive financial regulatory measures, strengthen economic governance and spur sustainable economic growth. Moderated by Timothy Keeler, Counsel at Mayer Brown LLP, the expert panel included Mark Sobel, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Finance at the U.S. Department of the Treasury; Antonio de Lecea, Minister - Principal Advisor for Economic and Financial Affairs at the Delegation of the European Union; Matthias Sonn, Minister of Economics and Science at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany; and Jeffrey Skeer, International Relations Specialist in the Office of Policy and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy.

The panel was followed by a dinner and a lively discussion with David Mark, Senior Editor at Politico and, about the U.S. Mid-Term Elections and their Potential Implications.

On September 23, 2010, The European Institute hosted a luncheon meeting with Ambassador Philip Verveer, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. Department of State. With the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Plenipotentiary Meeting only weeks in the offing, Ambassador Verveer addressed prospects for a new international telecommunications regulatory regime and emphasized the importance of limiting governmental controls. Additional areas of particular priority for the United States were internet governance and cyber security, and he stressed the importance of U.S.-EU cooperation in the setting of international telecommunications standards.  Ambassador Verveer expressed his support for the European Union’s ambitious new digital agenda, and spoke of the productive discussions he has had with officials from the European Commission’s Information Society and Media Directorate. A key mutual interest is the potential of cloud computing, which would make computing infrastructure and services available on a utility-like basis.

On September 23, 2010, The European Institute held a seminar with European and American experts to discuss Bridging the Global Digital Divide: Prospects and Challenges for the Expansion of Satellite Broadband.  Organized in cooperation with the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO), the meeting focused on the vital role that broadband technology can play in effectively spanning the digital divide and assessed the myriad challenges to refurbishing and building the civilian space infrastructure necessary to meet rapidly expanding global digital needs.

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