Tag: European politics

Anyone have any old drachmas?

Is this the end of the grand Eurozone experiment? I have to admit that I’ve had a general feeling for the past couple of months that the Germans would, in the end, cough up a bail-out package for Greece because of a sense that there is no real alternative. But, despite the fact that Angela Merkel finally appears to be asserting herself, now I’m really not sure how it will end. Rumors are swirling that Portugal and Spain will also need bailouts to meet excessive debt burdens after their debt ratings were downgraded. And, although Spain is looking more at a current liquidity problem than insolvency like Greece, this won’t matter to German parliamentarians who already can’t stomach bailing out Greece and ultimately bankrolling Greece’s inefficient and corrupt public sector and generous pension system. On top of all of that, German state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia on May 9 will be a free for all if the Bundestag passes a bailout.

So, we are left waiting on the Germans, the terms of an IMF bailout package, and/or whether or not the Greeks will entertain some form of debt restructuring, abandon the Euro, or default. None of these are particularly palatable and given the tensions between the European Central Bank and the IMF as well as the domestic political situations in both Germany and Greece, there are going to be some big losers before this all gets resolved. Things really don’t look good for the current Eurozone — either in the short-term or the long-run. Mlada was right, IPE is really interesting again….


MSF’s Foreign Policy

It is a time of political transition in Europe. While Tony Blair is not leaving his post as the UK’s PM until next month, Jacques Chirac has already been replaced as French President by Nicolas Sarkozy.

A few weeks ago, Sarkozy’z UMP party of the center-right beat Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal 53% to 47%. However, Sarkozy has just named Socialist Bernard Kouchner as his Foreign Minister.

What will this mean for French foreign policy — and perhaps US-French relations?

The former is perhaps easier to predict. Kouchner is best known as a founder (1971) of Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the Nobel-winning transnational medical organization. Most of the cofounders had worked for the Red Cross in Biafra in the late 1960s and were critical of the agency for being too deferential to international law, political neutrality and state sovereignty.

That history provides a huge hint as to Kouchner’s priorities and ideas. In 1987, he published a book with a title that also strongly signals his priorities: The duty to intervene. He declares simply, “mankind’s suffering belongs to all men.”

As a politician, Kouchner has continue to be both a humanitarian and an interventionist. He served as French Minister of Health during the 1990s and Minister of State for Humanitarian Action 1988-1991. From 1994, he was a Member of the European Parliament and President of its Committee on Development and Cooperation.

Over the years, these posts provided Kouchner frequent opportunities to advocate western intervention in humanitarian crises around the world. In Somalia in 1992, the AP reports, Kouchner “fumed about ‘rich people everywhere … who do nothing’ in the face of misery.” Later, he headed the post-war UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) from 15 July 1999 through 12 January 2001.

Experts guess that Kouchner is likely to make Darfur his top foreign policy priority.

As for French-US relations, Kouchner apparently speaks English very well, worked with the US in the Balkans in the 1990s, and like President Bush, has declared his personal and political opposition to tyranny and dictatorships everywhere.

In advance of the Iraq war, the AP says that Kouchner told interviewer Charlie Rose: “I’m really, clearly, strongly in favor of getting rid of Saddam Hussein, because of the suffering of the Iraqi people.” Though he hoped that conflict could be avoided, he criticized Chirac for linking French foreign policy to German pacifism, threatening to veto a second Iraq resolution at the UN Security Council and thereby undermining ties with the US.

Let me offer two possible futures.

First, Condi Rice’s dream: If the US can somehow successfully reframe the Iraq war as a humanitarian operation, which would likely require ending the counter-insurgency campaign, then perhaps Foreign Minister Kouchner will be able to convince the UN and his fellow European ministers to help the US solve its Iraq problem.

Second, Kouchner’s more likely dream: He pushes for the west and the UN to intervene in Darfur, urging the US to put its material might behind its political rhetoric.


(Insert Clever Play on “Dutch” Here)

I am really not the person who ought to be commenting on the Dutch “no” vote, but in the spirit of “we ought to say something,” I’ll hum a few bars.

Dan Drezner has already weighed in with his usual insightful comments. Lots of good coverage over the wires and print media. Time to go track down Dutch bloggers as well.

What are the implications? Ivo Daalder is worried:

This is bad news for America — which needs a strong, outward looking partner to meet the many challenges we all now face. Even the Bush administration appeared in recent months to understand that Europe could be that partner. But if Europe is busy debating its future it cannot be an effective partner — leaving the United States to deal with the world’s many problems very much on its own.

We’ll have to wait and see. Recent evidence suggests that the Europeans can certainly walk and chew gum at the same time, and it isn’t clear that ratifying the constitution would have demonstrably enhanced the diplomatic leverage of the European Union. On the bright side, this may be just the shock that European elites need to really start addressing the fundamental problems faced by the EU, such as the “democratic deficit” (yes, I know the new voting system was more democratic, but I mean in the more fundamental sense of moving beyond the European Union as being what Andrew Moravcsik characterizes as, in essence, an “inter-governmental” bargain).

I suppose the worst-case scenario is that many of the gains since Maastricht could unravel. The most recent rounds of European integration have been driven, in part, by a sense of inevitability. The French and Dutch votes are certainly a blow to that notion. Some are even speculating that the EMU could be in trouble – and European officials are trying to squash such talk lest it spook the markets. The consensus seems to be that further enlargement is, in the short term, off the table.

There’s good coverage of these, and other, concerns in the Financial Times.

But even severe setbacks don’t necessarily mean an end to European integration. Since it began, the process hasn’t exactly been smooth. The fact that it will require more than inertia – or the ‘hidden hand’ of market imperatives – to sustain it doesn’t look, in retrospect, all that surprising.

UPDATE: It looks like European officials also think they can multitask:

“These are real, important, serious setbacks,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said. “But at the same time, of course, we continue to work and nothing does prevent us from carrying (on) all the important work in cooperation with the U.S.”

“Some people have suggested we will now be too absorbed in our own crisis to pursue our external policies. I promise you this will not be the case,” she told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a joint news conference.

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