Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

24
Jun

A tragic split

Written on June 24, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

HOW quickly the unthinkable became the irreversible. A year ago few people imagined that the legions of Britons who love to whinge about the European Union—silly regulations, bloated budgets and pompous bureaucrats—would actually vote to leave the club of countries that buy nearly half of Britain’s exports. Yet, by the early hours of June 24th, it was clear that voters had ignored the warnings of economists, allies and their own government and, after more than four decades in the EU, were about to step boldly into the unknown.

The tumbling of the pound to 30-year lows offered a taste of what is to come. As confidence plunges, Britain may well dip into recession. A permanently less vibrant economy means fewer jobs, lower tax receipts and, eventually, extra austerity. The result will also shake a fragile world economy. Scots, most of whom voted to Remain, may now be keener to break free of the United Kingdom, as they nearly did in 2014. Across the Channel, Eurosceptics such as the French National Front will see Britain’s flounce-out as encouragement. The EU, an institution that has helped keep the peace in Europe for half a century, has suffered a grievous blow.

Published in the Economist on June 24th, 2016
22
Jun

The self-inflicted dangers of the EU referendum

Written on June 22, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in EU Expansion, Europe

What were they thinking? It is extraordinary to read a succession of official reports arguing, rightly, that a vote to leave the EU would impose long-term damage and a short-term shock. What sort of government would run such a risk, particularly when the economy has barely recovered from the financial crisis of less than a decade ago? The answer is one that has put the needs of short-term party management above its responsibility for the country’s welfare. David Cameron, prime minister, might soon be known as the man who left the UK in far-from-splendid isolation.

The Treasury has already argued that leaving the EU might lower real gross domestic product by between 3.4 and 9.5 per cent in the long term. This is broadly in line with estimates from other reputable forecasters. Patrick Minford of Cardiff University, a proponent of leaving, argues that the UK would enjoy a jump of 4 per cent in aggregate economic welfare after leaving the EU and adopting free trade (an unlikely choice). But this result is an outlier. It rests on implausible assumptions, not least on

The Treasury has now followed up with a report on the short-term consequences of a vote to leave. In summarising the results, George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, has stated that the UK would suffer a “do-it-yourself” recession if it decided to leave. One might better call it a “do-it-himself” recession. For it was the government’s decision to take this risk.

The new report’s main scenario predicts that GDP would be 3.6 per cent lower after two years than if the UK voted to remain, unemployment would be 520,000 higher and the pound would be 12 per cent lower. Under a worse scenario, GDP could be 6 per cent lower, unemployment 820,000 higher and sterling 15 per cent lower. The Institute for Fiscal Studies adds that, instead of an improvement of £8bn a year in the fiscal position, as the net contribution to the EU fell, the budget deficit might be between £20bn and £40bn higher in 2019-20 than otherwise, sharply slowing the planned fiscal consolidation.

Indeed, the Treasury argues, plausibly, that the very possibility of a vote to leave is already having an impact on the economy. But an actual vote to do so in June’s referendum would crystallise this risk and create significant and immediate effects, via three channels. The first of these would be the tendency of households and businesses to adjust at once to becoming permanently poorer. This would lead to significant cuts in consumption and investment. Read more…

MARTIN WOLF, May 26, 2016

 

13
Jun

The Swedish Migration Agency in Malmo, the southern port city on the border with Denmark, occupies a square brick building at the far edge of town. On the day that I was there, Nov. 19, 2015, hundreds of refugees, who had been bused in from the train station, queued up outside in the chill to be registered, or sat inside waiting to be assigned a place for the night. Two rows of white tents had been set up in the parking lot to house those for whom no other shelter could be found. Hundreds of refugees had been put in hotels a short walk down the highway, and still more in an auditorium near the station.

When the refugee crisis began last summer, about 1,500 people were coming to Sweden every week seeking asylum. By August, the number had doubled. In September, it doubled again. In October, it hit 10,000 a week, and stayed there even as the weather grew colder. A nation of 9.5 million, Sweden expected to take as many as 190,000 refugees, or 2 percent of the population — double the per capita figure projected by Germany, which has taken the lead in absorbing the vast tide of people fleeing the wars in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

That afternoon, in the cafeteria in the back of the Migration Agency building, I met with Karima Abou-Gabal, an agency official responsible for the orderly flow of people into and out of Malmo. I asked where the new refugees would go. “As of now,” she said wearily, “we have no accommodation. We have nothing.” The private placement agencies with whom the migration agency contracts all over the country could not offer so much as a bed. In Malmo itself, the tents were full. So, too, the auditorium and hotels. Sweden had, at that very moment, reached the limits of its absorptive capacity. That evening, Mikael Ribbenvik, a senior migration official, said to me, “Today we had to regretfully inform 40 people that we could [not] find space for them in Sweden.” They could stay, but only if they found space on their own.

Nothing about this grim denouement was unforeseeable — or, for that matter, unforeseen. Vast numbers of asylum-seekers had been pouring into Sweden both because officials put no obstacles in their way and because the Swedes were far more generous to newcomers than were other European countries. A few weeks earlier, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, had declared that if the rest of Europe continued to turn its back on the migrants, “in the long run our system will collapse.” The collapse came faster than she had imagined. Read more…

By James Traub, Feb. 10. 2016; www.foreignpolicy.com

1
Jun

Six weeks before a critical summit meeting aimed at bolstering NATO’s deterrence against a resurgent Russia, the alliance is facing a long list of challenges. The first is to find a country to lead the last of four military units to be deployed in Poland and the three Baltic nations.

But that, analysts say, could be the least of its problems.

Security concerns are as high now as they have been since the end of the Cold War. As the immigration crisis has strained relations within the Continent, anxieties have been heightened by Russian military offensives in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and a bombing campaign in Syria that has demonstrated Moscow’s rapidly increasing capabilities. Lately, Russia has talked openly about the utility of tactical nuclear weapons.

Despite the growing threats, many European countries still resist strong measures to strengthen NATO. Many remain reluctant to increase military spending, despite past pledges. Some, like Italy, are cutting back. France is reverting to its traditional skepticism toward the alliance, which it sees as an instrument of American policy and an infringement on its sovereignty.

And that is not to mention the declarations of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, that NATO is “obsolete,” that the allies are “ripping off” the United States and that he would not really be concerned if the alliance broke up. While that may be campaign bluster, it does reflect a growing unwillingness in the United States to shoulder a disproportionate share of the NATO burden, militarily and financially. Read more…

By ; Published on May 31st in the nytimes.com

30
May

The comparison was inflammatory, to say the least. Former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts equated Donald J. Trump’s immigration plan with Kristallnacht, the night of horror in 1938 when rampaging Nazis smashed Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and killed scores of Jews.

But if it was a provocative analogy, it was not a lonely one. Mr. Trump’s campaign has engendered impassioned debate about the nature of his appeal and warnings from critics on the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the United States. More strident opponents have likened Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

To supporters, such comparisons are deeply unfair smear tactics used to tar conservatives and scare voters. For a bipartisan establishment whose foundation has been shaken by Mr. Trump’s ascendance, these backers say, it is easier to delegitimize his support than to acknowledge widespread popular anger at the failure of both parties to confront the nation’s challenges.

But the discussion comes as questions are surfacing around the globe about a revival of fascism, generally defined as a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism. In places like Russia and Turkey, leaders like Vladimir V. Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan employ strongman tactics. In Austria, a nationalist candidate came within three-tenths of a percentage point of becoming the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since World War II.

 

 

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