The European Commission Continues To Press France on Roma Expulsions

(October 6)   The European Commission has delivered official notification to France asking it to meet the EU safeguards on freedom of movement and to set out a compliance timetable by October 15 in connection with France’s expulsion of thousands of Roma. However, the Commission stopped short of accusing France of discrimination against the Roma: an ethnic minority originally from India, now living in highest concentration in Romania and Bulgaria.  (An estimated seven to ten million Roma reside within the EU countries with the huge preponderance found in Eastern Europe and in the more recent EU members.)

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Military Conscription to End in Germany

(September 29)  After years of discussion and debate, Germany is moving to end military conscription—re-introduced in 1956, in an effort to break with the militaristic past and create a “citizen in uniform.” Earlier this week, German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel announced agreement of the governing conservative parties to abolish the draft in accordance with a proposal by German defense minister, Karl-Theodore zu Guttenberg.

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Kosovo: President Resigns Upcoming Talks with Serbia May be Affected

(September 27)  Kosovo’s President, Fatmir Sejdiu, abruptly announced his resignation today after the nation’s Constitutional Court ruled that he had violated the country’s constitution by simultaneously holding the presidency and the leadership of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

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Swedish Anti-Immigration Party Wins Seats for First Time in Surprising Parliamentary Elections

(Sept. 22, 2010) The world of Swedish politics was stunned by last Sunday’s elections, when the anti-immigration party (Sweden Democrats) won 20 out of the 349 parliamentary seats; a first since its’ founding in 1988 (see New York Times). Party leader Jimmie Akesson has described Muslim population growth as the biggest external threat to Sweden since World War II. The governing Center-Right coalition of Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt failed to win a parliamentary majority, falling just 3 votes shy of the necessary 175 seats. The Social Democrats, in turn, suffered their worst showing since 1914. Prime Minister Reinfeldt has pledged not to work with the far-right Sweden Democrats, and if the still uncounted ballots from Swedes living abroad do not tip the results, he may well have to seek to widen his governing coalition elsewhere.

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"Rumors of Europe’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated"

Ever since the creation of the Euro in 1999, it has been fashionable in some quarters to prophesy the failure of Europe’s single currency. As EU Ambassador João Vale De Almeida pointedly noted, economist Milton Friedman had famously predicted that the European currency would not be able to withstand the first real “crisis.”

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Germany Tilting Balance Of Nuclear Power, Which is Seen As Growing Option in EU

Germany’s decision to extend the licenses of the country’s 17 nuclear plants – and thus delay a long-planned calendar for a phase-out of nuclear-generated electricity -- reflects a wider and growing shift across Europe in favor of the nuclear option as a key component of countries’ energy mix.

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Froth of Oil Spill Whips up Doubts About "Special Relationship" - - If There Is One

 

Pelicans and marsh grass were not the only victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Another casualty was in Britain among some people there who felt aggrieved that their country seemed to get no specially gentle handling from the White House in the name of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and UK. That longstanding concept of a special bilateral tie has only slowly faded in London, even under the new government. But decision-makers in Washington have been saying privately for years that it no longer exists, except in special circumstances such as the wars in the Falklands and the Gulf.
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Europe Nears Historic Agreement On Financial Supervision– With Plan Seen Going Farther Than U.S. Reform

Today, European Union finance ministers reached landmark political consensus on sweeping financial supervisory reforms aimed at preventing a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis.  In the plan, hailed as a breakthrough after months of inter-European negotiations, three new watchdog bodies with binding authority will be created: a European Banking Authority; a European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority and a European Securities and Markets Authority. In addition, a European Systemic Risk Board will be set up to monitor potential threats to the EU economy, to be chaired by the head of the European Central Bank. The finance ministers’ action follows last week’s provisional agreement between the European Parliament and the Belgian Presidency of the European Council, which augurs well for final passage when the Parliament formally votes on the measures September 22nd.

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New U.S. Export-Controls: Sales Will Be Better, But Transatlantic Impact Takes Time

The Obama administration has started to deliver its promised new system of export controls on military-related technology. The goal of the reform is, as officials put it, “to build a higher fence around fewer, truly sensitive items.”

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U.S. Bailout Funds Saved European Banks -- Without Much Transatlantic Reciprocity

 

When the U.S. government led a bailout program of $700 billion in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the money was generally described as bailout funds for U.S. banks and other major financial institutions. But in fact, substantial amounts went to foreign banks, according to a congressional watchdog, the Congressional Oversight Panel. Headed by Elizabeth Warren, the committee has just issued a report highlighting this dimension of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).
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Sarkozy's Anti-Immigrant Stance Draws Popular Support -- and Intellectual Rebuff

The controversy about the harsh attacks on “immigrant crime” by French President Nicolas Sarkozy has spilled over into debates in the U.S. The influential New York Times lambasted the French leader for his comments singling out minorities. It was scathing about his threat to strip French citizenship from foreign-born naturalized citizens convicted of serious offences -- such as threatening the life of a police officer (or even pursuing Islamic practices such as polygamy or female circumcision). Such moves, the leading American newspaper said in an editorial, are “fanning dangerous anti-immigrant passions for short-term political gain.”

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U.S. Anti-Missile System Gains Ground Across Central and Eastern Europe

The Czech Republic and, more surprisingly, Slovakia, have announced plans to participate in the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system in Europe by hosting parts of the network on their soil. Poland has already signed up as a site for deploying part of the planned system.

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Sarkozy Gets Tough with Illegal Immigrants and Gypsies--Partly for Electoral Reasons

Two recent riots against police forces in France have once again brought to the forefront the thorny issue of the integration of marginalized minorities. In response to this violence and with an eye on the 2012 elections, President Nicolas Sarkozy has seized on the law-and-order issue that helped him win office three years ago. This time he has gone even further, announcing plans to strip their French nationality from naturalized immigrants convicted of attacking police or other authorities in France.  His new stance combines tougher repressive measures with rhetoric lumping together crime and immigration, even legal. (In that sense, his view is more radical even than that of the Arizona governor who wants the police to detain illegal immigrants involved in an incident with the authorities.)

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Rome and Eurozone: Italy is Biggest "PIIG" But Maybe Too Hard-working to Succumb to the Global Crisis that Threatens the Euro

 

Italy has managed to largely avoid the media spotlight in the eurozone crisis, even though it is one of the so-called “PIIGS” (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) always listed as the weak links in Europe. But Greece’s crisis and now Spain’s worries have overshadowed the potentially even larger problem in Italy. After all, it’s the seventh largest economy in the world -- seven times larger than that of Greece. But it has problems, too. So, as one commentator puts it, Italy is the “largest of the vulnerable countries, and most vulnerable of the large.” 

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Serbia Loses International Court Appeal Against Kosovo's Independence -- in Verdict that Backs U.S. and European Stance

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Thursday that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 does not violate any international law.

The verdict – that the step was legal – is a victory for U.S. and European policies and actions that led to Kosovo’s independence. This outcome has never been accepted by Russia or by Serbia, whose foreign minister reacted immediately with a vow that Belgrade would “never” recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.

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Barroso Says Economic Crisis Calls For Intensified EU-U.S. Coordination Now

Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, appealed Thursday for closer EU-U.S. ties in the wrenching economic crisis engulfing both sides of the Atlantic. “The transatlantic community is not living up to its potential. I think we should do much more together,” he said.

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French Parliament's Ban on Full-Face Veils is Popular In EU, But Controversial In U.S.

The French law banning Muslim full-face veils from anywhere outside private homes and mosques was passed by the lower house of parliament Tuesday, with only a single dissenting vote. The ban is a move supported by a large majority of people in other west European countries, polls show. But the measure is seen as controversial and intolerant by Americans.

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EU Diplomatic Service to Start in December on Schedule; Parliamentary Hurdle Cleared

The planned EU “diplomatic service” won final formal approval by the European Parliament in a landslide vote on July 8, clearing the way for the new corps – officially known as the European External Action Service -- to start work on December 1. This date means that the service will be set up within one year of its authorization by the Lisbon Treaty, sooner than many skeptics had predicted. This track record may bode well for the future of the service and its head, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, who has emerged with fresh stature after her success in speedily establishing this new corps.

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EU Parliament Approves U.S. Access for Counter-Terrorism to SWIFT Financial Data

The European Parliament has agreed to a new deal giving U.S. agencies access to bank data about Europeans' international transactions in order to combat terrorism. An earlier version of the accord between the U.S. and the European Commission had been blocked by the Parliament exercising its new authority under the Lisbon treaty. So the resolution now reaffirms a broader institutional accord on transatlantic cooperation to fight terrorist networking.

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U.S. Seems Set, Finally, to Get Access to EU Financial Data Against Terrorism

The European Parliament seems set to approve the so-called “Swift Pact” this week in a second vote. The Parliament had rejected an initial deal between Washington and the European Commission on U.S. access to financial transactions – ostensibly on grounds that it violated privacy rights but also, as parliamentarians avow, because the parliament wanted to assert its new authority gained in the Lisbon Treaty.

Now, after some changes in the Commission’s terms with Washington, the pact seems set to go through. Passage will activate provisions for the U.S. Treasury to get access to data about financial transfers (often via the system known as SWIFT) for the purpose of identifying terrorists’ financial activities. In February, the Parliament rejected the initial SWIFT pact on grounds that it did not include enough measures for privacy protection.

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