One Euro? Photo: Jose Glez y Lopez/flickr
With the massive protests in Spain over the weekend and calls from respectable quarters for Greece to leave the Euro – which, as Daniel Knowles of the Telegraph succinctly illustrates (echoing Barry Eichengren’s working paper), could have genuinely catastrophic results – the future of the Eurozone is very much in question today in the world media.
Last August, Lorenzo Smaghi, writing for Foreign Affairs, offered an optimistic assessment that put a lot faith in the new financial governance structures – mainly the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) – implemented that summer, but that optimism now seems to have been overtaken by events.
Whereas Charles Calomiris, in Foreign Policy, was telling us in January that the Euro was dead, in the May/June print edition of Foreign Affairs, Henry Farrell and John Quiggin offered a proposal to save it – “and the EU.”
EU, never? Wait and see. Photo: Limbic/flickr
The timing could not have been any better. A few days from now, the chief prosecutor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will release a report which was expected to paint a damning picture of Serbia’s co-operation with the ICTY, thereby destroying Serbia’s chance of getting EU candidacy status this year. Considering today’s historic arrest of war criminal Ratko Mladic and his expected extradition to The Hague, some people at the ICTY will now have to work overtime to correct the draft report, .
Serbia’s move towards EU accession began back in 2008, with presidential elections and a parliamentary vote both demonstrating the appeal of the EU perspective to Serbia’s electorate. Even after Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence, a majority of Serbians continued to resist nationalistic demagogy. Of course the nationalist ideology had not disappeared, but its political significance started to diminish.
Serbia officially applied for EU membership in December 2009, after seeking to secure the broadest possible support among member states. In October last year, the EU member states referred Serbia’s application for membership in the EU to the European Commission, while reiterating that further steps toward membership would depend on Serbia’s “full co-operation” with the ICTY. The Netherlands in particular took a tough stance, reiterating that their consent was dependent on the arrest of General Mladic and Goran Hadzic. » More
A solution for everyone's sake. Photo: Antonello Mangano/flickr
The EU is finally moving towards a common asylum policy. On 4 May, the European Commission made a proposal to improve the migration policy, with the conclusion of the asylum system as one of its goals.
This push for action has been triggered by the uprisings in Northern Africa, as the European states seemed unable to address the strong immigration fluxes. Even though the situation isn’t exactly new, this episode highlights the need for a single European response to major exterior events. The lack of a foreign policy unity remains one of the EU’s most problematic areas.
EU countries already began to set up a common asylum system back in 1999, but the ongoing process ended up being “too slow“. The main intentions haven’t changed much though: to harmonize the legislative measures and to provide a uniform status for those granted with asylum in a EU country. Plus, as the European Commission now stresses, resettlement within the EU Member-states must become a more common practice. And the numbers continue to show the extent by which Europe still lags behind. Last year, around 5,000 refugees were resettled within the EU, as compared to 75,000 in the US. Even Canada alone resettled more refugees than all the EU countries together…
Unlike humans some jellyfish are self-sufficient electricity providers. Courtesy of x3nomik/flickr
Europe is talking energy and there is no easy way out of existing dilemmas: While nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants entail considerable risks, most sources of alternative energy are not yet considered mature enough to fuel Europe’s economies on their own. Like elsewhere across the globe, Europeans are facing tough challenges in their attempt to secure a clean, reliable and affordable power supply.
As in every crisis, the risk looms that countries just look after their own narrowly-defined national interests and either ignore or forget the advantages of a regionally coordinated approach. In their struggle for secure energy, European nations should not lose sight of the potential of the common electricity market. In the long run, it could play a crucial role in enabling a more efficient energy future both from an economic and an ecological point of view. Yet, many obstacles still need to be overcome at the moment.
In an integrated market, electricity could be exchanged efficiently across the continent, connecting demand to the most inexpensive supply no matter where in Europe. Consumers could benefit from choosing from a wide range of suppliers, which in turn would boost competition and innovation. Currently, however, the European electricity markets remain regionally fragmented. Countries and companies are not investing enough in transmission capacities across national borders because they struggle to agree on the financial burden-sharing of these expensive projects. As long as national grids are not fully interconnected, trade cannot evolve.
Kuna, fuel of Croatia's politcs? Courtesy of SantiMB/flickr
While the media spotlight has been focused on the uprisings in Libya and other Arab countries, violent protests have also erupted in Europe. Over the past weeks thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Croatia’s capital Zagreb, urging their government to step down.
Protesters are accusing the governing HDZ Party (Croatian Democratic Union), as well as the opposition, of incompetence in dealing with economic stagnation and endemic corruption. It seems that many Croatians are not only disillusioned with their government, but with the political system as a whole. Moreover, a recent poll suggests that only 49% of Croats are still in favor of joining the EU as their dissatisfaction with domestic politics translates into a skeptical attitude towards Brussels.
In light of the ongoing political unrest, the question of whether Croatia is ready and willing to become the 28th member state of the European Union remains unclear.
The Mafia and the State
Croatia is now only few steps away from fulfilling the EU’s accession criteria: Out of 35 accession negotiation chapters, 28 have been closed. The chapter dealing with reform of the legal system, however, is proving to be a hard nut to crack. In a country plagued by corruption, distinguishing politicians from criminals is not always easy. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, Croatia’s economy and politics are rated as corrupt as Tunisia’s. » More