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Europe’s December Surprise?

A pile of Euro notes. Photo: Images Money/Flickr

A pile of Euro notes. Photo: Images of Money/Flickr (by

Over the past year, Europe has enjoyed calm financial markets. At the core of the market’s comfort were two assumptions about policy. First, that the European governments would do just enough to keep the process of European integration moving forward. Second, that the ECB would, in the words of Mario Draghi, do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. The centerpiece of the ECB’s subsequent efforts was expanded liquidity (through long-term repurchase operations and easier collateral requirements for banks to access ECB liquidity) and a commitment to purchase government bonds to support countries return to market (the OMT program). Even many pessimists who fear that Europe is trapped on a unsustainable, low-growth trajectory remain optimistic that Europe will do what it takes to navigate the near term risks. It may be time to question that optimism.

As many have noted, there is an increasing sense of adjustment fatigue in Europe, reflected in pressure on governments and the rise of anti-austerity, anti-establishment parties across the Eurozone. In rhetorical terms, Europe has responded, and fiscal policy looks likely to be broadly neutral in the year ahead. However, an overall fiscal relaxation that is needed in the euro area as a whole looks unlikely, as peripheral countries can’t afford much additional spending, while the core countries that can spend more seem disinclined to. » More

Fragile Cities Rising

Aerial view fo a favela. Photo: Domenico Marchi/Flickr

Favela Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Domenico Marchi/Flickr.

A new social category recently emerged on the security and development landscape–the fragile city. The preoccupation with “fragile” and “failed” cities–at least in military circles–echoes many of the very same anxieties associated with failed and fragile states. Such cities are said to experience ruptures in the social contracts binding governments and citizens and a declining ability to regulate and monopolize legitimate violence across their territories. In extreme cases, municipal governance systems and security apparatus collapse altogether.

The dizzying pace of urbanization in the twenty-first century is believed to exacerbate fragility in large and intermediate cities. The United Nations estimates that the world’s slum population will reach two billion by 2030, accounting for the majority of all future global population growth. A growing cadre of relief and development specialists is also aware how some cities–Ciudad Juárez, Medellín, Karachi, and Tegucigalpa–are synonymous with a new kind of fragility with severe humanitarian implications. While not necessarily affected by armed conflict, these and other urban centers are seized by levels of violence on par with war-torn Abidjan, Benghazi, Damascus, or Mogadishu. » More

How France ‘Set the Standard’ for Crisis Intervention

Armoured vehicle being unloaded from an aircraft. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr.

Royal Air Force assisting France to move Military equipment to Mali. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr.

A very senior British general said of Operation Serval in Mali that France had “set the standard” for crisis military interventions. Praise indeed and not easily given. One can always tell when a crisis is being managed to effect as the press lose interest.

The challenge Paris faced when four thousand French troops arrived in Mali in February was complicated to say the least. Tuaregs had taken control of northern Mali and sought separation. They were supported by a particularly nasty bunch of Islamists (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Mujao) who had profited (literally) from the chaos in neighboring Libya. To make things worse the Malian Army, or what was left of it, was in meltdown and the country’s political system with it. Now, with the Tuaregs having signed a June peace deal, last year’s military coup leader having apologized and elections planned for 28 July, Mali has at least a chance of a future.

How did the French pull off this genuine military success? » More

Can a Divided Egypt Build an Egypt for All?

Mohamed Morsi

Mohamed Morsi was ousted on on 2 July 2013. Photo: Bora S. Kamel/flickr.

With the dawn of Egyptian nationalism in the late nineteenth century came a powerful slogan: “Egypt for Egyptians.” The phrase captured the anti-colonial sentiment that permeated the Egyptian streets for more than half a century, from the Urabi revolt of 1879–1882 to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s military coup in 1952.

In Tahrir Square last week, as with the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, the phrase was being used again, albeit with a significant alteration: “Egypt for All Egyptians.” This additional adjective conveys a widespread frustration with unrepresentative government—first directed against Mubarak, and now against Morsi.

While some consider Morsi’s overthrow last week to be a blow to democracy, others deem it a “democratic coup.” The reality is not quite as black or white: Egypt is forcing the world to re-examine the scope and limitation of concepts like “democracy,” “legitimacy,” and “coup.” And what started as a call for a more inclusive form of government in Egypt may yet produce the most divided Egypt the world has seen. » More

Obama (Finally) Comes to Africa

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo: The White House/flickr.

‘China 1, US 0.’ This is how the United States (US) news website Globalpost titled its comment on US President Barack Obama’s long-awaited trip to Africa. The visit, which also took him to Senegal and South Africa, ended in Tanzania on 2 July. Clearly, a trip that cost US taxpayers $100m was a way for the US to counter the huge amount of trade China has been conducting with Africa over the last few years.

Chinese trade with the continent reached close to $200 billion in 2012, while US trade was less than half that, at $95 billion, according to the US trade office. » More

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