On Climate, Can the EU "Lead by Example"? Not at Copenhagen

Such Hopes Discredited by Copenhagen

The watered-down outcome of the summit talks at Copenhagen fell dramatically short of expectations set by the EU. Since the 1997 Kyoto pact, Europe has claimed the moral lead on climate-change issues -- and the influence that goes with it. That image was dashed in Copenhagen: EU credibility and ambitions were sidelined in favor of the views of the U.S. and China. To regain a global voice, the EU needs drastic changes as it starts implementing the Lisbon treaty.

In a detailed review of the situation, an article in the Irish Times article -- “Copenhagen debacle brings home limits of EU's influence” – also talks about some apparently uncertain initial European steps to get a new grip on the climate agenda.


France to Google Books: “Hands Off Our Culture”

Sarkozy Proposes Rival Digitization Plan Made in France

As a key (and culturally symbolic) part of its grandiose global design to make and compile electronic copies of all existing books, Google, the U.S. online search giant, has long sought to digitize the nearly 15 million books on the shelves of the French National Library. From the outset, Google’s ambitions have met opposition in some French circles, and now President Nicolas Sarkozy has put his foot down, announcing that Paris will put up more than $1 billion to fund its own national electronic-scanning project for France’s body of literary work.

Cost of Transatlantic Non-Tariff Barriers

A major new study documents the potential extra economic growth available on both sides of the Atlantic if the remaining non-tariff trade barriers were eliminated between the U.S. and the European Union.


Swiss Minaret Ban Popular in Europe -- Controversy Points to Deeper Malaise

The Swiss ballot initiative banning minarets has touched political nerves throughout the European Union -- on both sides of the issue. Most of the 27 member-state governments, along with human-rights groups, reacted officially with regret about the step. But public opinion polls showed that big majorities of the electorates – bigger than the Swiss one – in major EU nations would favor a similar ban in their countries.


European Commission Line-Up

Portfolios by Countries (and Parties)


U.S., EU Agree on Joint Mars Flight -- Unclear Who Will Pay

After a decade in declining cooperation on space research, the EU and the U.S. have agreed to a breakthrough joint venture. In a letter of intent released in November, the two powers announced an agreement to design unmanned spacecraft for exploration of the surface of Mars. The stakes are high in the light of the prestige associated with the countries that fund scientific advances in space, but progress is contingent on the funding required to carry out the research. So far, the financial details are unclear.


"Cywars" and Psywars -- U.S. Playing Offense? Pentagon Experiments Cautiously

For at least a decade, “cyberspace” – with its potential for exposing digital networks to eavesdropping and crippling attack – has been highlighted by strategists as a new “fifth dimension” of warfare. The most vulnerable global power in this regard is the United States and its European allies, analysts say, because these nations rely so heavy on electronic networks for their military operations as well as their civilian infrastructure from communications and road traffic to banking and hospitals. All of these can potentially be taken down by massive attacks by hackers, especially those with backing from a government.


Corruption Watch: EU Ranks Cleanest -- But Region has Problems

Europe continues to be world’s leading region in terms of corruption-free governance, according to the latest (November 2009) survey by Transparency International (TI), the Berlin-based watch-dog on corruption around the world. The biggest European countries are rated above the United States, but some east European nations continue to struggle with corruption. (The full report is available at http://www.transparency.org/.)


Civilian Surge for Afghanistan -- New Strategy Needs New Coordination

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has committed the Obama administration firmly to closer civil-military cooperation on development and humanitarian aid as a key component of the new U.S.-led “surge” in Afghanistan. (Watch her press conference in Kabul here.) In this initiative, she has outspoken support from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has voiced his conviction the Pentagon needs to operate in tandem with “soft power.” The two cabinet secretaries’ ability to see eye-to-eye is a change from recent eras in Washington when inter-agency conflict over policy dogged U.S. operations in combat theaters, including Iraq.


Europe Must "Emancipate" Itself -- Obama Offer Can't be Refused

By Jean-Claude Casanova

(This article appeared in Le Monde newspaper in its edition dated Nov. 16, 2009.)

At the end of President George W. Bush’s second term in office, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the distinguished analyst, put forward the idea that two conditions had to be met in order to advance transatlantic relations: America had to go through “regime change,” and another “regime” had to emerge in Europe. He meant that the United States had to have a presidency with a less unilateral vision of the world, and that Europe had to achieve a higher degree of political unity. Now Barack Obama has been elected and the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified. Have these conditions been met?


High Speed Internet Access -- New "Entitlement"?

Old-fashioned telephone service on a nationwide basis has been a U.S. objective since 1934, and it has been largely achieved, with 95 percent penetration. Today one of the hot buttons in telecom policy in the US and Europe (and elsewhere) is the need to provide universal coverage for broadband service that can make the internet fully available to users, particularly in remote areas or deprived inner-city zones. (“Broadband access” means the facility allowing an individual computing device to connect by telephone, cable or wireless, to the internet at a megabit-per-second speed, with the target rising toward 100 mbps in many places.)


Journalists Say Press Freedom Sliding in Europe

Some major European governments are interfering more and more with the media in their countries, according to a report by working journalists. The 2009 annual survey released by Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization based in Paris, said that the downgrading included several leading members of the European Union, notably Italy.


EU's "Precautionary Principle" -- Love it and Hate it.

The Precautionary Principle has become an important aspect of European Union regulatory and legal jurisprudence. Its ascendancy, however, drives some, particularly conservative intellectuals in the US, into fits of free market frenzy.


Country by Country Snapshot of Central and Eastern Europe Reeling in Recession

In the economic meltdown, the Central and Eastern European countries are among the hardest hit – as badly as Iceland and worse than most other European countries. The financial problems in the CEE region are particularly acute because these countries were already suffering from structural economic problems: inflation, an overhang of cheap loans in euros that now must be repaid in devalued national currencies; and falling demand for their exports. Now most of these countries need large loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but must comply with strict IMF criteria liable to trigger hardships for their electorates and perhaps political turmoil. Here is an overview of the region.


Black Carbon: Overlooked Warming Factor that can be Quickly Cleaned Up

By now most world leaders have realized the dangers of climate change, and many have launched initiatives to limit carbon dioxide emissions that are the main cause of greenhouse gases and global warming. Because they are so big, they are challenging to contain. Alongside them, there are other smaller but important contributing factors that are relatively easy to curb but are too often overlooked by leaders looking at the big picture.


Iceland’s Acceptance for EU Membership Is Proving Trickier than First Anticipated

Following its financial meltdown in October 2008, Iceland hoped that EU membership would protect the country from a similar economic crisis in the future, and six months later, in July 2009, Reykjavik applied to become a member state. The European Commission responded positively – in less than a week, a very rapid timeframe when compared to countries in the Balkans which have sometimes had to wait years before their applications were even considered.



U.S Votes to Extend Funds to Subsidize Rebates for Older Cars — A Plan Pioneered in France and Other EU Countries

This blog post is based on two articles that appeared in Le Monde on August 4th, 2009.

Paris is priding itself on inventing an economic incentive to revive car sales while cutting carbon emissions. This economic-stimulus plan – called “cash for clunkers” – has now been copied in other European countries and in the United States.


EU Pledges Anti-Piracy Training for Somalis


The European Union will move a step forward in its campaign to curb piracy in the Gulf of Aden by dispatching a team of advisers to train Somali security forces to protect shipping in the region, EU foreign ministers said after a council meeting in Brussels on July 27.


Eastern Europe’s Historic Leaders Publicly Complain that the Obama Administration is Taking their Countries for Granted — A Message Ignored by U.S. Mainstream Media

In the first public rebuke to the Obama administration from pro-American allies, prominent former policy-makers in central and eastern Europe have published an open letter to the President complaining that Washington is neglecting their interests and is jeopardizing public support for NATO and for U.S. leadership in their countries.


Russia Shares EU’s Population Decline — Worsened by Men’s Shortening Lifespan

With Moscow bent on restoring some of Russia’s former international prominence, any longer-term Kremlin ambitions for the country are bound to be constrained by dire demographic trends.