Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category


Mr. Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the Eurpean Comission and European Comissioner for Competition, is interviewed by Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on EU’s financial policy, as well as on EU and US negotiations on trade and investment agreement.

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Lucas Papademos, Former Prime Minister of Greece and Vice-President of the European Central Bank, is interviewed by Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on the role of the European Central Bank, the European banking union, and the future of Greece in the Eurozone.

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America is the world’s No. 1 and Germany is Europe’s, yet both seem content to punch below their weights.

By Josef Joffe


When U.S. President Barack Obama pays his respects to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin this week, he will encounter a Germany that no sitting American president has encountered in many decades. No, not the “Fourth Reich” of punditry’s fevered imagination. For the first time since Harry Truman arrived in Potsdam in 1945 to dismember the Third Reich, Germany is Europe’s No. 1 again.

The irony couldn’t be thicker. Twice in the 20th century, Germany tried to grab hegemony by bayonet and blitzkrieg, almost destroying itself and Europe in the process. Now, primacy has dropped into Mrs. Merkel’s lap like an overripe plum. It’s dominion by default, and power sits uneasily on the chancellor’s head. It is literally an embarrassment of riches. Germany is so strong because Britain, France, Italy and Spain are so weak, their economies the victims of failed modernization and failing competitiveness.

Barack Obama will spend 22 hours in a country that is all dressed up but doesn’t know where to go. The U.S. and Germany are the last heavies standing in the West, but they would rather compete in the middleweight league. To invert Maggie Thatcher: They are punching below their weight. America is No. 1 in the world, and Germany is No. 1 in Europe, yet both are practicing what great powers have never done. Call it “self-containment,” or to use the language of the 19th century: They are balancing not against others, but against themselves. This is a first in great-power history.

Mr. Obama’s America is disarming and retracting, both from Europe, where there are only 30,000 U.S. soldiers left, and from the Greater Middle East, where the U.S. has vacated Iraq while pulling out from Afghanistan. In Syria, it has taken Mr. Obama two long years to figure out that he can’t play Ferdinand the Bull while Russia and Iran are playing power politics. Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has mobilized thousands to defend the Assad regime, and the Russians have deployed naval units to the Eastern Mediterranean and dispatched sophisticated anti-air and anti-ship missiles—classic 19th century stuff. Read more…

Mr. Joffe is editor of Die Zeit and fellow of the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford.

As published by The Wall Street Journal on June 17, 2013.


A European Spirit

In the streets of Istanbul, a new democratic spirit is taking root. But the violent repression of dissent shows that it cannot flourish as long as Erdogan remains in charge.

By Kerem Öktem

Turkey’s economy is booming, at least in terms of macro-economic indicators. Over the last ten years of AKP (Justice and Development Party) rule, the GDP per capital tripled and unemployment and urban poverty rates decreased significantly. Exports increased to the point that Turkey has come to be defined as a trading state. It is now the world’s 16th largest economy. By any means, the decade of AKP government has seen an unprecedented wave of modernization of infrastructure and public services, which allowed significant segments of precarious urban lower classes to join a growing middle class.
Why protest, when all seems to be going well in the terms of the country’s economy? The first answer would be that the economy isn’t everything and that individuals crave for more than just new motorways, shopping centers, and luxury residences, especially once they have more than just the absolute basics for daily survival. But there is more to take into consideration.

We need to remember that the Turkish economic “miracle” has come at the price of severely restricted labor rights and precarious working arrangements. The average private sector employee in Turkey works six days a week, enjoys two weeks of annual holidays and works significantly longer than eight hours a day. Lethal work accidents in the industrial sector, particularly in the shipping and construction trades are common. While the economy is booming, and wealth filtering down into the working classes, the disregard for labor rights and health and safety regulations at the work place is, indeed, one of the reasons for brewing discontent.

Another reason is both the direction of the neo-liberal “growth machine” and its political framing. Particularly in the last few years, the environment and the urban heritage has become a target for rent-generation and profit maximization. Hundreds of projects for dams and hydroelectric power plants have been pushed through, almost always without due environmental impact assessments and public consultation, driving thousands of law-abiding conservative villagers to the barricades and bringing them into conflict with an excessively brutal police force. The same dynamic has shaped the struggles around historical neighborhoods in Istanbul and elsewhere, which have been subjected to urban renewal projects based solely on the principle of commodification and the disregard of the rights of the current residents. To add insult to injury, these large-scale projects have been tendered to companies sympathetic to the government or to businessmen with family ties to the AKP political elite. The occupation of Gezi Park and Taksim was triggered by the logic of this urban developmentalism and the prospect of yet one more shopping center in what used to be Turkey’s cultural heart and the main stage of its social struggles. Read more…

Kerem Öktem is a research fellow at the European Studies Centre and an Associate Faculty Member at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford.

As published in on June 12, 2013.


Lord Christopher Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust and Chancellor of the University of Oxford, is interviewed by Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on foreign policy of the European Union and the United Kingdom.

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