Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category



European countries with strong trade ties to Russia remain reluctant to impose stiffer sanctions even as the conflict in eastern Ukraine worsens. This may seem like a rather restrained response to the specter of a military Russian assault on Ukraine – German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said at an event in Berlin on Monday that Russia “was clearly prepared to allow tanks to roll across European borders” – but the E.U.’s 28 member nations are struggling to get past their widely differing political and economic concerns. Hitting the E.U.’s €400bn annual trade with Russia would require serious economic sacrifices at home, and the bloc has so far been hoping that its cocktail of threats, mild sanctions and a few diplomatic snubs would be enough to contain Russia’s possible territorial ambitions.The problem, says Stefan Wolff, a professor of international security at the University of Birmingham, is that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not “reason and rationalize in the same way,” and has proved ready to jump on any public splits and timidity.


Ever since the E.U. provoked Moscow’s ire with plans to sign a trade pact with Ukraine in November, Russia has always seemed one step ahead. Putin persuaded then-President Viktor Yanukovich to jettison the deal; when Yanukovich was ousted by protests a few months later, Russia took advantage of the chaos and seized Crimea. Now Russia is accused of orchestrating the unrest in eastern Ukraine – claims Russian officials strongly deny.


The E.U.’s strongest reaction so far – visa-bans and asset-freezes on 33 Russian and Ukrainian individuals – came after the annexation of Crimea. Now the problem is getting the member states to agree at what stage the Kremlin’s alleged engineering of events in eastern Ukraine warrants the most serious sanctions against key economic sectors that include energy, arms and financial services. Such sanctions would have a widely different impact across Europe. In the east, nations like Hungary and Bulgaria, which are heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas, would suffer if Moscow responded to any sanctions by halting supplies. Cyprus, Greece and Spain, still struggling from the euro zone crisis, have a lot of Russian money in their banks. German industry has firm business relations with Russian companies.


The result is a diverse bloc arguing for diplomacy to be given more time. The more bullish nations are also acting with a degree of self-interest: Estonia and Latvia share borders with Russia and fear designs on their own territory. The United Kingdom – leading the calls for more sanctions – has its reputation as a forceful world player to maintain. Russia has shown a willingness to exploit these splits, last week sending a letter to 18 E.U. nations reliant on its energy and making veiled threats to the supplies. Officials in Washington have urged their partners in Europe to stay united and have pushed them toward imposing deeper sanctions. But the United States has both less to lose, and less sway.


“From an economic perspective the U.S. cannot impose strong sanctions on Russia,” says Georg Zachmann, a research fellow at the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank, citing the U.S.’s modest trading relationship. In 2012, Russian exports to the U.S. totalled $13 billion. The same year Russia sent goods worth €213 billion ($294 billion) to the E.U. The sale of oil and gas accounts for 50% of Russia’s federal budget reserves, and most of that goes to Europe. So the E.U. does have a hefty weapon in its toolbox. The next few days will be crucial. Ministers from Russia, the E.U., the U.S. and Ukraine will meet in Geneva on Thursday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that unless they get an acceptable response from Russia, the E.U. heads of state could call an emergency meeting in Brussels next week. The threat of holding yet another meeting may seem a typical example of the E.U. meeting aggression with bureaucracy. But if they use that opportunity to make good on their threats and approve the next phase of sanctions, Russia finally might start paying attention.

By Charlotte McDonald-Gibson; published on 15/04/2014 in


Is le tea party brewing in France?

Written on April 2, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Op Ed, Political Economy

Steeped in conservative rage and tasting of grass roots, a political backlash has traditional politicians and the news media asking the once-unthinkable: Is le tea party brewing in France?

If it were, it would be populated by the likes of Catherine Mas-Mezeran, a Parisian mother of three who wrinkles her nose at the mention of President François Hollande. She calls him “the Socialist,” which, technically, he is. But if President Obama had the birthers, Hollande now has the baptismists.


French President Francois Hollande has made Interior Minister Manuel Valls his new prime minister, replacing Jean-Marc Ayrault, who, with other ministers, took the blame for the Socialists' defeat in local elections.

French President Francois Hollande has made Interior Minister Manuel Valls his new prime minister, replacing Jean-Marc Ayrault, who, with other ministers, took the blame for the Socialists’ defeat in local elections.

Like others in a growing movement here, she firmly believes an unsubstantiated rumor emanating from conservative circles that Hollande may have secretly renounced his Christianity. “He has rejected his baptism,” she said. “This is really shocking.”

An Elysee Palace spokesman responded, “This rumor is as ridiculous as it is unfounded.”

The movement’s strength in numbers, however, cannot be ignored. Initially a reaction to a same-sex marriage law passed last year, the movement has morphed into the most sustained mobilization of social conservatives here in more than a generation.

A reinvigorated right delivered a devastating blow to Hollande in Sunday’s local elections across the country, prompting a humbled Hollande to reshuffle the French government on Monday. He replaced Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault with Interior Minister Manuel Valls, a politician considered more palatable by some on the right.

Results of the runoff vote showed the far-right National Front scoring its biggest victory ever, taking 11 towns and a major district in Marseille in part by appealing to outraged residents. The left ceded more than 150 other cities to the center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Losses by the Socialists also reflected economic doubts and disenchantment with Hollande. But across Europe — a continent often viewed on the other side of the Atlantic as a bastion of liberal thought — several nations are in the throes of their own full-blown culture wars, and perhaps nowhere are they raging quite as fiercely as in France.

Tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets in repeated protests, many for the first time in their lives. They are organizing assemblies and social-media campaigns even as some angry newcomers run against incumbents on the right whom they consider not socially conservative enough.

A show of strength on French streets in February led Hollande to backtrack on a measure that opponents feared could have helped same-sex couples have children through in vitro fertilization and surrogacy.

Scores of social conservatives took their children out of public schools for one day in January to protest new lessons being tested in some French schools aimed at dispelling gender stereotypes. The social conservatives said the lessons could lead to boys wearing dresses and girls playing mechanic, or even masturbation classes for children.

“We are witnessing the rise of a tea party of the French,” Valls warned in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

A continent already hit by economic upheaval is confronting a wave of bitter societal polarization over a host of issues such as euthanasia, abortion and same-sex marriage.

In Spain, the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is seeking to push through legislation that would greatly limit abortion rights, unleashing a bitter confrontation with the left and reversing the steady march of liberal social policies there since the death of Gen. Francisco Franco. In Poland, a measure that would grant same-sex civil partnerships failed last year because of major opposition, prompting Prime Minister Donald Tusk to say he saw no chances of such unions passing within the next 10 to 15 years.

During Germany’s national election campaign last year, center-right Chancellor Angela Merkel sparked outrage among progressives after expressing doubts about full adoption rights for same-sex couples. “To be completely honest with you, I’m having difficulty with full equality,” she told public TV. Read more…


Published on March 31st in the Washington Post:


Granted, the crisis in Ukraine is worrisome, Vladimir Putin’s behavior is unpredictable, and the 30,000 Russian troops amassed on the Ukrainian border arouse a sense of dread and danger unfelt since the Cold War. That said, the alarmism is getting out of hand. Legitimate concerns are spiraling into war chants and trembling, a weird mix of paranoia and nostalgia, needlessly inflating tensions and severely distorting the true picture.

A bizarre example of this is a March 26New York Times story headlined “Military Cuts Render NATO Less Formidable as Deterrent to Russia.” The normally seasoned reporters, Helene Cooper and Steven Erlanger, note that the United States “has drastically cut back its European forces from a decade ago.” For instance, during “the height of the Cold War” (which was actually three decades ago, but let that pass), we had about 400,000 combat-ready forces defending Western Europe—whereas now we have about 67,000. In terms of manpower, weapons, and other military equipment, they write, “the American military presence” in Europe is “85 percent smaller than it was in 1989.”

Yet the article contains not one word about the decline of Russia’s “military presence” in Europe since that time. It only takes one word to sum up that topic: disappeared. The once-mighty Warsaw Pact—the Russian-led alliance that faced NATO troops along the East-West German border—is no more. And its erstwhile frontline nations—East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland—have been absorbed into the West, indeed into NATO. This is hardly an esoteric fact, yet its omission makes the Times’ trend lines seem much scarier than they really are.

Nor, even with its own borders, is the Russian army the formidable force it once. According to data gathered by, Russian troop levels have declined since 1990 from 1.5 million to 321,000. Over the same period, tank divisions have been slashed from 46 to five, artillery divisions from 19 to five, motorized rifle divisions from 142 to 19, and so it goes across the ranks. Read more…

By Fred Kaplan, author of The Insurgents and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Published on March 28th, 2014 in Slate



From March 17th to 21st , the 2013/2014 IE Master in International Relations cohort traveled to Brussels for institutional visits to the main European institutions and NATO. The European Union as a successful model of regional integration is a core element in the MIR curriculum and the trip to Brussels represents a unique opportunity for the students to interact with key decision makers from the organizations they study in class.

The students began with a visit to the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. They were greeted by Klaus Hullmann, Administrator at the Directorate for Communication of the CoR. His informal, honest and often humorous account of the role of the Committee of the Regions within the EU made a positive impression on the class. At the Commission, several representatives from the European External Action Service, the Directorate General for Climate Action, the Directorate General for Enlargement and the Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection explained the inner workings of their departments’ day to day operations. At the Parliament, the class had the opportunity to sit in a meeting of the sub-committee for defense and security (SEDE) in which the recent establishment of the European Air Transport Command for pooling and sharing of military assets in Europe was discussed. This came a day before Spain formally joined the EATC.

On Thursday, MIR students spent the day at the NATO headquarters and were addressed by officials from different units including José Maria López-Navarro, Information Officer for Spain & Portugal, Eric Povel, Programme Officer, Engagements Section, Public Diplomacy Division,   H.E. Amb. Miguel Aguirre de Cárcer, the Permanent Representative of Spain and Andrew Budd, Defence Capabilities Section, Defence Policy and Planning Division. Mr. Budd, a career military man with over 37 years in the British army, was especially open when asked about NATO potential involvement in the Ukraine crisis. Without divulging any confidential information, he acknowledged that NATO was following unfolding events extremely closely and would have to act should Russia set its sights on the Baltic countries where an important Russian minority resides.

Following the NATO visit, students met with Dr. Salomé Cisnal de Ugarte, Counsel at Mayor Brown International LLP, to discuss international trade and the EU. On Friday, the class visited the Brussels offices of the International Organization for Migration and was given a fascinating presentation on migration in the world. Unlike popular belief, most migration is not South to North but South to South.  Countries in the South do not have policies adapted to this type of migration. Improving such policies could have a beneficial impact on global development.



El pasado miércoles 19 de marzo el IE School of International Relations acogió la presentación del libro “Sin medias tintas” de Diego Sánchez de la Cruz (MIR 2011). El autor, además de antiguo alumno, es también periodista y profesor asociado de IE University. Junto a él intervinieron en el evento Arantza de Areilza, Decana de IE School of International Relations, Carlos Rodríguez Braun, Catedrático de Historia del Pensamiento Económico en la Universidad Complutense y participante de la obra, y  Manuel Llamas, Director de Libre Mercado y responsable del prólogo de la obra.

“Sin medias tintas” está compuesto por 20 entrevistas a figuras relevantes del liberalismo  sobre la Gran Recesión, recogiendo diferentes medidas económicas y políticas para reforzar tanto a la sociedad española como a sus instituciones. La presentación detalló tanto aspectos de su elaboración como su crítica frente a cierto tipo de políticas económicas. Comenzó con  una introducción en la cual el Catedrático Rodriguez Braun relató la problemática detrás de la gran politización de la economía española y el periodista Llamas criticó la falta de conocimiento de gran parte del periodismo económico nacional. Tras ello, el autor Diego Sánchez compartió con la audiencia algunas de las reflexiones que le han supuesto creación de la obra.

Durante su ponencia ofreció un recorrido por diferentes anécdotas y lo que le ha aportado la obra a nivel personal. Mostró su visión de cuáles son los desequilibrios crónicos económicos de España. También destacó la falta de autocrítica y la escasa preparación de la clase política española. Tras una animada de rueda de preguntas la Decana de Areilza dio por finalizado el evento y se procedió a la habitual firma de ejemplares.

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