The CSS Blog

The Triumph of Politics in Europe

A European flag and a Greek flag

Will Europe's politicians save the Euro? Photo: YoungJ523/flickr

MADRID – Economics, particularly economic theories, always yield in the end to political imperatives. That is why Europe’s fast-changing political landscape, reshaped by electoral insurrections in France and Greece against German-backed fiscal austerity, is bound to affect Europe’s economic policies as well.

Such an imperative has been at work throughout Europe’s postwar history. Indeed, Europe’s shift from the modest customs union of the European Economic Community to the single market and common currency of today’s European Monetary Union was itself a fundamentally political move, one with strategic implications, of course. France wanted to tame German power by harnessing it to the European project, and Germany was prepared to sacrifice the Deutsche Mark for the sake of France’s acceptance of a united Germany, the nightmare of Europe’s recent past.

An economically robust Germany is, without doubt, vital to the European project, if only because history has shown how dangerous an unhappy Germany can be. Indeed, it was thanks to the euro – and the captive European market that goes with it – that Germany today is the world’s second-leading exporter (China surpassed it in 2009). » More

No Universal Solutions: The Politics of Biotechnology in Europe and the United States

Neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC). Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In May 2003, the United States and several cooperating countries filed a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) charging the European Union (EU) with maintaining an illegal, non-science based moratorium on genetically modified (GM) food and crops. Almost three years later, in February 2006, the WTO concluded that EU inaction between 1998 and 2004 had constituted “undue delay” in product approvals in violation of treaty requirements. That decision, however, did not immediately open European markets to American GM products. Indeed, in mid-2010 the European Commission proposed a legally controversial plan to allow member states to decide for themselves whether they wished to grow or ban GM crops—a sign of Europe’s continued inability to harmonize national differences concerning the implications of modern biotechnology for agriculture, environment and trade. » More

Think Tanks: Useful or Useless?

The Thinker Statue

Thinking: Worth the Effort? Photo: marttj/flickr

Next Tuesday, September 20th, the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is hosting a one-day conference under the provocative title, “Can Think Tanks Make a Difference?”, as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations.

When institutions celebrate such occasions, the tone can sometimes become overpoweringly self-congratulatory; CIGI – a think tank – instead decided to put itself in the ‘line of fire’. Active in the innovative thinking business, they are utilizing this opportunity to reflect on how think tanks operate, and how they achieve influence.

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Indecision and Justice in Kenya

Always a Sword in Hand. photo: rafaelmarquez/flickr

As the International Criminal Court (ICC) starts an investigation into its most high-profile suspect yet – Libya’s “Brother Leader” Muammar Gaddafi – politicians in a far more democratic country, 2,700 miles to the southeast, are also looking to evade the long arm of the law.

Kenya became the 98th member of the International Criminal Court in March 2005, when it ratified the Rome Statute. Over the past three months, the ICC has issued Kenya with summonses for the ‘Ocampo Six’: six individuals, both in and out of government, deemed by Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo to be those most responsible for the post-electoral violence that unfolded in 2007-08, leaving an estimated 1,500 people dead.

Is it really necessary for the ICC to be involved? Could Kenya not prosecute those involved on a purely domestic level? Yes, it could: but only with an adequate institutional framework in place. The Rome Statute provides for the legal principle of complementarity; that is, legitimate local efforts at justice enjoy primacy over international efforts. Politicians in Nairobi, however, have botched various attempts to establish a local tribunal, or to reform their judicial system. Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara has spearheaded the campaign to establish a local tribunal that would meet international standards – in essence, removing the need for ICC involvement. A copy of his bill can be found here. Three attempts to pass the legislative text – February 2009, August 2009 and February 2011 – were, however, defeated as a result of parliamentary infighting. » More

South America’s Anomaly

Artistic support for "Boss" Dési Bouterse. Photo: Nicholas Laughlin/Flickr

Suriname is not a country which often features in international news. Located on South America’s northern coast between Guyana and French Guiana, many people often forget this former Dutch colony even exists. Being out of the media spotlight has allowed what some might consider unusual developments to occur.

Whilst most states which have experienced military coups and dictatorships celebrate the removal of authoritarian rulers, Suriname went in the opposite direction. After having conceded defeat to Ronald Venetiaan in the 1991 elections after ten years in power, former military ruler Dési Bouterse left the armed forces and instead founded the National Democratic Party (NDP). In July 2010, just under twenty years after being ousted from government, Bouterse was duly elected President of Suriname.

Having gained a taste for power during his decade-long rule in the 1980s, he apparently embraced political life and, rather than instigate another coup, he put himself to the vote. His political campaign targeted the youth demographic, using Bob Marley tracks at his rallies. This age group is especially important for Bouterse as they were not alive when the “December 1982” killings took place, for which he has been on trial since 2007. That a former dictator wanted for murder is now President may lead some to question whether there was underhand political chicanery involved. » More

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