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To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 27th, 2016 at 08:50:23 AM EST

Given that it is the great Bard's 400th. Anniversary, a Shakespearean soliloquy seems apposite. What are the arguments for and against a British exit from the EU, and what are the views of European Tribune contributors on the subject?

President Obama has just swung by on his way back from being snubbed in Saudi Arabia, before giving Merkel some much needed succour on the refugee problem.  His emphatic endorsement of Britain staying within the EU inspired Brexit lead campaigner Boris Johnson to the heights of Trumpian abuse.

Basically Obama said Britain should stay in the EU to maximise its global influence, and suggested that the UK would have to go to the back of the queue if it wanted bi-lateral trade deals post Brexit. And in case anyone should think that Obama is on the way out and therefor cannot speak for the USA on this issue, it should be noted that Eight former Republican and Democratic Treasury Secretaries have just written a letter endorsing his point of view.

This struck at the heart of the Brexit case - which has always maintained that Britain could have all the benefits of EU market access, without the costs of EU membership.  Britain, the argument goes, is so important in its own right, that other countries including the rump EU Block would be falling over themselves to cut bilateral trade deals with a newly independent UK.

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ECB Independence, Then and Now

by Bernard Sun Apr 24th, 2016 at 04:28:46 PM EST

This was then.

Spring 2012: the financial crisis that struck four years ago has thrown more people into unemployment and the economy has still not recovered. The ECB is running a tight money policy and the official priority of the Eurozone is to reduce state debt and budget deficits. Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland have been subjected to austerity policies, with the understanding that Italy and maybe France may be further down the line.

In France, outgoing president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running for re-election. It's an uphill battle: unemployment has increased during his term and for those who still have a job, their wages have stagnated or even receded. The economy hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels. Many are calling for the ECB to do more to "support economic growth" in addition to its main mandate to keep inflation in check; Sarkozy eventually joined this choir:

Sarkozy puts role of ECB back on French election agenda -- EUbusiness.com | EU news, business and politics (17 April 2012)

Sarkozy launched the last week of his difficult re-election campaign with a veiled swipe at the independence of the European Central Bank (ECB).

"On the role of the Central Bank in supporting growth, we are also going to open a debate and we will push Europe forward," he told an election rally on Sunday.

"If the Central Bank does not support growth, then we will not have enough growth."

Despite the so-called "Merkozy" alliance, reaction from Berlin was swift:

Germany stresses ECB independence after Sarkozy comments | Reuters  (17 April 2012)

Germany on Monday rebuffed calls by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to extend the mandate of the European Central Bank (ECB) to include supporting economic growth, citing the central bank's independence.

"The German position on the ECB and its independent role is known and is also known in Paris and has been unchanged for a long time," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

[Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger]

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Obama's Legacy: How will he rate as a President?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 21st, 2016 at 06:10:36 AM EST

It is becoming increasingly clear that the next US President is likely to be either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many have remarked that this is like a choice between the risible and the almost unthinkable. Indeed President Obama's approval ratings have been moving steadily north as this pantomime has unfolded - even as he sits marooned in Office, without a legislature he can work with. Shortly after his election in 2008 I had this to say of the incoming President:

Behind his winning rhetoric of Change, Obama has managed to maintain a remarkable opacity about what he would actually do as President, particularly when it comes to the USA's pre-eminent role in world affairs. Sure he will try to get troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later and redeploy some of those resources to Afghanistan. Sure he is more predisposed to multilateralism and diplomacy rather than starting more wars - for example with Iran. True, he won't be a climate change denier, a free market deregulater, a cold warrior, or a bombastic proponent of the "New American Century" where all other powers are supposed to supplicate to the shining city on a hill. But what will he actually do, and do his early appointments give us any clues?

The first thing to be said is that he brings a new world view to the office - one explicitly opposed to the neoconservative neo-imperialism so characteristic of the Bush regime. Obama's African heritage, his Kansas roots, his Indonesian schooling, and his Hawaiian youth all help to give him a sensitivity and appreciation of the world outside continental USA. His actual foreign policy experience may not be much greater than Sarah Palin's, but at least he doesn't believe that living next to Russia and Canada constitutes a qualification for high office.

But besides his stimulus package, which helped the recovery from the 2008-10 recession which had threatened to become the deepest since the Great Depression, and the Affordable Care Act, what has he actually achieved? Has it gotten to the stage where we have to give credit to a US President for not actually starting any more wars, and for having used diplomacy to lessen tensions with Iran and Cuba? To what extent is he responsible for the mess in Syria and Libya, or was there simply no good solution there? Has the Israeli/Palestinian situation improved, and is there more he could have done? No doubt he would have achieved far more had the Democrats not lost the 2010 mid-term elections, but should he bear some responsibility for that defeat? Could he have done more to turn his 2012 re-election into a victory in Congressional elections as well?

Please use the comments below to give us your assessment of his Presidency.

Comments >> (42 comments)

IMF discusses when to crash Greece

by fjallstrom Sat Apr 2nd, 2016 at 07:54:24 PM EST

Wikileaks has released transcripts of an IMF discussion of how to get Germany to accept IMFs proposal for austerity and debt relief for Greece. The method seems to be to create a crisis in April by threatening to pull out.

WikiLeaks - IMF Internal Meeting Predicts Greek 'Disaster', Threatens to Leave Troika

Thomsen said internally that the threat of an imminent financial catstrophe is needed to force the other players into a "decision point". For Germany, on debt relief, and In the case of Greece, to accept the IMF's austerity "measures," -- including raising taxes and cutting Greek pensions and working conditions. However the UK "Brexit" referendum in late June will paralyse European decision making at the critical moment.

Wikileak has the transcripts as PDF or HTML Greece government is not amused according to Greece demands IMF explanation over leaked debt transcript | Reuters

Greece demanded an explanation from the International Monetary Fund on Saturday after an apparent leaked transcript suggested the IMF may threaten to pull out of the country's bailout as a tactic to force European lenders to more offer debt relief.

EU/IMF lenders will resume talks in Athens on Greece's fiscal and reform progress next week aiming to conclude a bailout review that will unlock further loans and pave the way for negotiations on long-desired debt restructuring.

The review has been adjourned twice since January due to a rift among the lenders over the estimated size of Greece's fiscal gap by 2018, as well as disagreements with Athens on pension reforms and the management of bad loans.

frontpaged - Bjinse

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Germany votes against Immigration!

by Colman Mon Mar 14th, 2016 at 06:32:26 AM EST

The english language press assure me that Merkel's "Open Door" immigration policy has been repudiated by the German people, 70% of whom voted for either her party or parties who criticise her policy for not being liberal enough.

Comments >> (12 comments)

Super Tuesday Open Thread

by Bjinse Tue Mar 1st, 2016 at 08:22:04 AM EST

For comments and debate on the Super Tuesday results and other topics related to the US presidential primaries.

Comments >> (161 comments)

Taubira resigns

by eurogreen Wed Jan 27th, 2016 at 02:18:48 PM EST

Well, that's a relief...

French minister Christiane Taubira resigns after fallout over terror policy | World news | The Guardian

Taubira's ultimate showdown with Hollande and his prime minister, Manuel Valls, was over the president's controversial plans to strip convicted French-born terrorists of their citizenship if they have a second dual nationality. The measure - known as the "loss of nationality" plan - was to be written into the constitution next month.

The move, which the government had admitted was purely symbolic, was seen by critics on the left, such as Taubira, as having the dangerous side-effect of sending a message that French citizens could be divided into two categories - with those who were "pure" French worth more than those with mixed backgrounds.

As Justice Minister, it would have been her job to defend the amendments to the Constitution, and the ensuing legislation, creating two-tier citizenship.

This may seem a minor thing to nationals of countries which were founded along ethnic lines. But for the French Republic, it's a definitional issue, and in practice, a clear-cut left/right divider.

frontpaged with minor edit - Bjinse

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Stockholm mass sexual assault coverup uncovered

by Starvid Mon Jan 11th, 2016 at 10:35:52 AM EST

The shock created by the mass sexual assaults in Köln is spreading like rings on the water. It has now reached Stockholm - and uncovered an alleged police/media cover-up of mass sexual assaults here as well.

Swedish police face allegations of covering up mass sex assault

Sweden is facing its own version of Germany's Cologne scandal with police in Stockholm pledging to investigate allegations of covering up mass sexual assault at a festival two years ago.

Swedish police promised urgently to investigate the claims reported first by liberal newspaper Dagens Nyheter that a gang of youths -- reportedly mostly from Afghanistan -- groped and molested girls as young as 11 or 12.

The allegations, which date back to the 2014 youth festival We Are Sthlm, are yet to be confirmed. But they are still likely to cause a political scandal perhaps even greater than the reaction in Germany because of the success in the Nordic country of an anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats, that has in recent months periodically topped opinion polls.

This is what has happened.

front-paged, discussion about events in Cologne in the comments - Bjinse

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Spanish general election

by Migeru Sun Dec 20th, 2015 at 06:58:12 AM EST

Apart from providing low-tax tourism destinations, European microstates also provide a way to skirt anachronistic election silence laws, such as the one banning the pubilcation of election polls in Spain for the last 5 days prior to an election. Indeed, El Periódic d'Andorra has been publishing a daily running poll all week long, with perhaps surprising results: Podemos overtakes PSOE, and PP solidifies its lead (19.12.2015)

Use this as an open thread before, during and after the poll.

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To save Schengen, federalize border control?

by Migeru Sat Dec 12th, 2015 at 07:03:48 AM EST

It is being argued that this taking control of Schengen's external border from Brussels is the only way to avoid countries restoring their national borders, given the current mutual mistrust, lack of coordination and lack of information-sharing among Schengen member states.

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Regional elections in France

by eurogreen Sun Dec 6th, 2015 at 04:27:15 AM EST

[UPDATED] Sunday evening 13th December

On Sundays 6th and 13th of December, regional elections will be held in France. It is to be expected that the Front National will win two of the twelve regions on the French mainland, with a possibility of a third or even a fourth.

The left held 20 of the 21 regions (before the recent mergers) in the previous two elections, in 2003 and 2009. Instinctively, one expected a near wipeout this time around, but France's electoral geography doesn't work like that. It will hold at least four this time, quite likely six or seven (my estimation), possibly even more...

[I will be updating this diary over the next week or so as the situation evolves]

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

Seven for the right; five for the left; zero for the FN. Oh, and one for the Corsican regionalists/nationalists.

CORRECTED national figures :

Right 40.6%, Left 31.6%, FN 27.4%

Bearing in mind the absence of the left in two of the most populous regions. But still...

Verdict : Sarkozy wins the second round on points.

[editor's note, by Migeru] Front-paged - use as an open thread.

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Paris attacks aftermath: Brussels in lockdown

by Migeru Sat Nov 21st, 2015 at 08:12:25 AM EST

What is the nature of the threat that requires putting a national capital under military lockdown? We're being told very little, as a part of the story would only unsettle the population.

[editor's note, by Migeru] This is an open thread. Post updates and analysis in the comments.

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Paris attacks aftermath open thread

by Migeru Wed Nov 18th, 2015 at 06:32:09 AM EST

The mean-spirited reaction to the wave of Syrian refugees into Europe did not start with the Paris attacks, but it has been made worse.

Parallels with the 1930s abound...

[editor's note, by Migeru]

This is an open thread. Add any news and commentary on the Paris attacks aftermath to the comments.

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Paris attacks open thread

by Migeru Fri Nov 13th, 2015 at 05:11:37 PM EST

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Portugal: Left Front government prospect rocks the establishment

by Luis de Sousa Mon Oct 19th, 2015 at 08:08:13 AM EST

"As if we were overthrowing the remainder of the Berlin Wall." That is how António Costa, the leader of PS, described the events of the past two weeks in Portugal. Beyond all the metaphors this sentence may carry, it properly conveys the sense of fundamental shift in the country's politics. Right from election night, events took an unusual course, departing from the traditions instituted since the 1974 revolution.

This note digests the events of these past two weeks and the political choices the country faces. It then reflects on the particularly delicate situation in which the Social Democrats now find themselves, to which there are many parallels at the European scale. I then try to anticipate forthcoming developments.

Update 23-10-2015: President Cavaco Silva addressed the country yesterday evening to communicate his decision to appoint Pedro Passos Coelho as prime minister, leaving the right in power. With an uncharacteristic surly tone, the president made clear he will not accept a left front government, calling such solution "inconsistent". The president now hopes for a rebellion within PS to support his government. If that does not happen, Portugal will remain effectively without a government until next March, when Cavaco Silva leaves office.

Promoted by DoDo

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DÖ is dead

by fjallstrom Mon Oct 12th, 2015 at 05:54:29 PM EST

Decemberöverenskommelsen (DÖ) - The December deal is being buried in Sweden. That is the name of the deal that prevented new elections in Sweden after last autumn's cabinet crisis in Sweden that followed the rather inconclusive elections. The deal that was supposed to last until 2022 did not last a year.

So is the crisis back on? Not at all.

Promoted by DoDo

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Portugal Parliamentary Elections 2015

by Luis de Sousa Mon Sep 28th, 2015 at 06:37:09 AM EST

Portugal is going for regular Parliamentary elections on the 4th of October. The international press wonders now and then why after five years of austerity the political landscape remains apparently unchanged, with the three parties that signed the agreement with the Troika in 2011 still harnessing more than two thirds of the votes in polls.

While it is true that political upheaval seen in Spain, Italy or Greece is yet to materialise in Portugal, the outcome of this election is not as straightforward as might appear on the surface.

This post provides an overview on the election method, the parties with possibilities of electing MPs and the prospects for a resulting government.

Promoted by DoDo

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Orbán's Next Plan

by DoDo Thu Sep 10th, 2015 at 02:59:37 PM EST

If you think the Orbán regime's handling of refugees bottomed out morally with the situation at Röszke, wait until next week, when Hungary's recently passed tough anti-migration laws come into effect.

Until the late summer, Viktor Orbán's government had no migration policy: they only had a premature election campaign, a xenophobic drive aimed at the domestic population. But when reality struck back and not managing the situation resulted in a crisis (eventually shutting down the most important transport route of the country), the regime had to consider actual policy – and their policy of choice is deterrence. Some say the refusal of UN and EU help or the apparent total incompetence of authorities at the refugee gathering site at Röszke is a first conscious part of this. True or not, the real deal is the plan set in motion with a legal package adopted last week and coming into force on Tuesday next week. One that is both vile and impractical.

Stuff like the reinforcing of the border fence, sending down the army, and criminalising illegal immigration and any aid given to migrants reached the international media. But there is more: the practical negation of the right for asylum. To achieve the goal of turning away just about everyone, refugee processing camps are to be set up directly at the Serbian border, in front of (not behind) the border fence. There, Kafkaesque courts housed in containers are to go through the legal motions to arrive at a guaranteed rejection, on the basis that people can take refuge in Serbia which is a safe country.

This plan can easily turn deadly: if, like at Röszke, the government does little to feed and protect the heath of the waiting crowds, or if there is a crowd crush. Furthermore, the plan is way too optimistic about managing crossings of the fence and smuggling (not to speak of people running along the tracks when the gates are opened for a train). Finally, it guarantees even less cooperation from Serbia than before. IMHO the only way it can avoid becoming a total disaster is if the onset of cold weather throttles the refugee wave.

Comments >> (23 comments)

A mini Eurotrib funding drive for UNHCR

by epochepoque Tue Sep 8th, 2015 at 02:37:12 PM EST

UN agencies 'broke and failing' in face of ever-growing refugee crisis - Guardian

Click on the link to see the complete graph. The first bar is the current unfilled request of the UNHCR for $2.89 billion for the Syria regional response plan. Only $0.9 billion of the total $3.8 billion have been funded. If some European governments had had the foresight (yeah I know), they would've just funded the rest long ago which would've been that much cheaper. Bygones, but it's not too late to make a difference.

frontpaged with minor edit - Bjinse

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The 2nd Migrant Wave to Germany

by DoDo Thu Sep 3rd, 2015 at 08:12:27 AM EST

Back in 1989, around the time school started for me at the start of September, Budapest was full of East Germans hoping to leave for West Germany (for a mix of political and economic reasons), hopeful because Hungary started to dismantle the Iron Curtain a few months earlier. A large group camped out at the West German embassy, but there were makeshift camps around the city. The government finally opened the borders for them on 11 September, launching a mostly car-riding emigration wave (at least 70,000 people in three months). A few weeks later, East Germans camping out in Warshaw and Prague were taken to West Germany in sealed trains.

Yesterday, something similar happened, only this time the refugees are dark-skinned and faced much worse treatment. In line with both the government's xenophobic campaign and the EU's Dublin Agreement (whose main aim was to keep refugees from moving to the richer EU members), Hungarian authorities prevented the mostly Syrian refugees without EU visa from boarding trains bound for the west. Most of the stranded refugees who refused to be taken to Hungarian camps stayed in the underpass at main station Budapest Keleti (up to two thousand), in a makeshift "transit zone" lacking basic hygiene and only cared for by an NGO.

I don't know whether it was concern about image (to have such misery as the first sight of arriving Western tourists), or anger at the German foreign minister's denouncement of the anti-refugee wall built at the Serbian border, or anger at general Western hypocrisy; but yesterday, the government decided to withdraw police and let refugees board the trains. Without any plans about how to manage the thousands of extra passengers (all transit countries refused to send extra trains), entirely predictably, the result was utter chaos, from Budapest to Munich: ticket counters were (actually, still are) clogged, some trains left with an hour delay due to over-loading, the first train was stopped in the last city before Munich but local police didn't have the capacity to process more than half of the refugees on-board; other trains were stopped at the Hungarian–Austrian border station, but after the filtering-out of refugees who already filed for asylum in Hungary the trains still travelled on over capacity; on the parallel highway, Austrian police started checks of all trucks, causing a 50 km traffic jam.

For the hectic events since, especially today, check the comments.

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News and Views

 25 April - 1 May 2016

by Bjinse - Apr 24, 15 comments

Your take on today's news media

 18 - 24 April 2016

by Bjinse - Apr 17, 22 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 25 April - 1 May

by Bjinse - Apr 24, 6 comments

Open for threading

 Open Thread 18 - 24 April

by Bjinse - Apr 20, 28 comments

Thread's what you make it

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