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Spanish Local Election Results Threaten the Historic Dominance of Two Parties (6/1)

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ryan barnes photo 2By Ryan Barnes, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Department of Commerce

While the famous quip, “all politics is local,” may be a slight exaggeration, local elections often provide a good indication of larger political trends. The May 24th local and regional elections in Spain are a case in point; in fact, the recent results may signal a tectonic shift in the current political structure.

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Greece Debt Talks: Economy, Mood Worsen as Brussels and Cash-Strapped Athens Wrangle over Austerity Conditions to Unlock Bailout Funds (6/1)

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By James D. Spellman, Strategic Communications LLC

As strains on Greece’s economy, government, and people worsen, the de facto bankrupt country faces a summer of deadlines to repay massive debts that far exceed its resources, underscoring the need for an unprecedented, long-term bailout that Athens and Brussels are at an impasse in their negotiations to produce.

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EU Formulates Action Plan on Refugee Migration Crisis (5/19)

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By Laura Kayali, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

EU foreign and defense ministers agreed on May 18 to take military action and initiate a naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea, to destroy the vessels of migrants’ traffickers before they can launch more hazardous transports. Although High Representative Frederica Mogherini is still in talks with the UN to assess if such measures would be in accordance with international law, this decision embodies the EU’s readiness and willingness to tackle what Ban Ki-moon called “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II” – the issue of Mediterranean migrants.

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Book Review: "They Eat Horses, Don’t They? The Truth About the French" By Piu Marie Eatwell

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Reviewed By Laura Kayali, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

French Children Don’t Throw Food,” “French Women Don’t get Fat,” and “A Year in the Merde…” Our French culture, way-of-life and worldwide known flaws have been extensively dissected by Anglo-Saxons in effort to grasp what makes the French so … French.

As a French citizen, I was very interested in reading a foreign perspective on France. External points of view are often magnifying glasses and, as I am currently discovering a different culture myself, as an intern in the United States, I was curious to know what it was like for a Briton to live in my home country. I was also expecting to be annoyed by another Brit making fun of French customs and culture. But I have to admit that Piu Marie Eatwell did her homework and I developed a grudging respect for the book, which could easily have degenerated into tired clichés --just another futile effort by the English to understand their neighbor. This book, highly irritating at times, will probably not be loved by the French, but it will likely command respect.

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Great Britain Heads to the Polls (5/6)

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michaelmosettigBy Michael D. Mosettig, former Foreign Editor of PBS News Hour

In contrast to the American model of computer generated projections and losing and winning candidates speaking to supporters in separate rented hotel ballrooms (or in the case of Barack Obama in 2008, an entire city park), elections in the United Kingdom are low key affairs.

From thousands of polling stations, paper ballots are gathered in town and borough halls. As the candidates and their local agents watch, clerks assemble stacks of ballots marked usually in pencil for each House of Commons candidate in a constituency. (Only two constituencies across the entire country vote directly for the person who could become prime minister) As the count goes on, the candidates can tell by the size of the stacks if they are going to win or lose. And then in displays of stiff upper lips, they go on stage together in the late night or early morning hours to hear the town clerk officially announce the results. The process is as charming as it is technologically out of date, but then again, it has never produced anything as disastrous as the Florida U.S. presidential ballot count in 2000. On a national level, the television networks try to project which party will win, but those exit polling projections have been notoriously wrong in the past.

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Perspective: Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy Shift and the Threat of Isolation (4/30)

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Armen Sahakyan

 By Armen V. Sahakyan, Master of Arts candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Over the course of the past 18 months a new foreign policy doctrine has emerged in the Republic of Azerbaijan. This shift was formally codified on December 3, 2014 in a largely unnoticed 50-page Russian language memo penned by Ramiz Mehdiyev – the long-serving chief of President Ilham Aliyev’s Administration – who calls primarily for a distancing from the West because of the latter’s “unfair” criticism of Azerbaijan and “unthankful” attitude for all the sacrifices that Baku has made.

This shift comes at a troublesome time, as the deterioration of relations between the West and Russia have placed Baltic, Eastern European, and South Caucasian states alike on heightened alert due to the increased unpredictability and volatility of the geopolitical situation. Azerbaijan is no exception.

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France’s Approach to a Nuclear deal with Iran (4/28)

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By Laura Kayali, European Affairs Editorial Assistant
     
In contrast to guardedly optimistic comments of the U.S. president and Secretary of State on the “framework agreement” with Iran, the reaction of French political figures has been decidedly more tentative, insisting on the fact that the agreement is not yet final. “The real deadline is in June. (…) There is still work to do” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius while President Francois Hollande stated that “France will be watchful (…) to ensure that a credible, verifiable agreement is established.” This tempered enthusiasm echoes Paris’ posture throughout the negotiation process: a posture which has been, surprisingly, tougher than that of the U.S.
 
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Perspective: Can Politico Europe Find “Hot” News in Brussels? (4/27)

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mzeiner01By Markus Ziener, Professor of Journalism in Berlin and former Washington and Moscow Correspondent for German Business Daily Handelsblatt

For a reporter, generating exclusive news or “hot” stories in Brussels can be quite a challenge. It is relatively easy to share a drink at the bar with a EU bigwig, to have chicken and pommes frites even with a EU commissioner in one of the restaurants at the Place du Luxembourg or to get invited into one of the many background circles where the latest inside stories are traded. Compared to Washington where access to hardcore news is more limited to established channels, Brussels is an open book.

This is nice for journalists freshly descending upon Brussels because they are in the loop relatively quickly. But it’s bad for those who want to do nothing less than shake up the whole place.

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Greek Finance Minister Comes to Washington (04/17)

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mosettig sm-285x255By Michael D. Mosettig, former PBS News Hour Foreign Editor

It may have been a first for Washington, a visiting Greek cabinet minister filling two large onference rooms at a Washington think tank. But the appearance of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was a widely anticipated event at the Brookings Institution, especially coming back to back with his principal interlocutor and sometimes adversary in debt and Euro negotiations, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble.

The immediate consensus among policy wonks in the audience was that neither minister offered many specifics in the talks that face a series of deadlines between now and June to determine if Greece can avoid debt default and remain in the Euro currency zone.

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Battle of Gallipoli — 100 Years Later (04/14)

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By Michael D. Mosettig, former PBS News Hour Foreign Editor and Adjunct at SAIS

From thousands of miles they came, the Australian miners and sheepherders, the New Zealand shop assistants and carpenters, to a Turkish peninsula, then barely known to them, but that would become their defining national myth--Gallipoli. And now, a hundred years on from the April 25, 1915, pre-dawn amphibious landing, Australians and New Zealanders from the Antipodes, across Asia, to Turkey and Europe and to 13 U.S. cities will observe an anniversary wrapped in solemnity and intense emotion.

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Farewell to Ina Ginsburg and Arnaud de Borchgrave (03/16)

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mosettig sm-285x255By Michael D. Mosettig, former Foreign Editor of PBS News Hour

  When I was traveling for six weeks out of Washington, there was only one event in the city I genuinely felt I had missed ---the music-filled, Kennedy Center memorial farewell for Ina Ginsburg. Sadly, I was back in time for the commemoration of the life of Arnaud de Borchgrave. Beyond living long, celebrated and more than full lives, these two Europeans emerged from a shared experience -- the deadliest human-made catastrophe in history, Europe's descent into barbarism and the Second World War --to be pitched on to Anglo-Saxon shores and eventually to Washington.

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German Foreign Minister calls for strategic patience (03/12)

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By Michael D. Mosettig, former Foreign Editor of PBS News Hour 

Reflecting his country's increasingly pivotal role in the world's major crises, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier can count on a full house when he makes an address in Washington. And with his increasingly visible role comes increasingly direct talk to his American interlocutors and audiences on issues from Ukraine to Iran.

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Turkey’s Exclusion from TTIP Sours Relations with EU and U.S. (3/09)

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brianbeary-august2011By Brian Beary, Washington Correspondent for EuroPolitics

“If there is no interest, any relationship will come to an end.” A stark warning from Turkey's EU affairs minister, Volkan Bozkir, on a trip in February to Washington, acknowledging the drift in Turkey's relations with its European Union and United States. Having spent decades trying to ensconce itself in the transatlantic community, joining NATO in 1952 and entering a customs union with the EU in 1996, Turkey's westward alignment is witnessing a reversal. The immediate cause of anxiety for Bozkir was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the biggest ever bilateral free trade pact, under negotiation since summer 2013, and from which Turkey is excluded since it is not in the EU.

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Maestro Mario at His ‘Chest Thumping Best’: ECB Purchases of Public Debt Begin March 9 (3/09)

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spellmanBy James D. Spellman, Strategic Communications, LLC

The European Central Bank announced last week it will begin buying €60 billion ($66.49 billion) of government and private bonds on Monday (March 9) in its most intensive effort yet to avert a deflationary spiral and jumpstart economic growth. 

European stock markets immediately rallied to close at their highest levels since November 2007, the start of the financial crisis, as inflation expectations rose and the euro slipped to an 11 and ½ year low.

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Reprieve as Athens Renegotiates Debt Terms with Troika (2/25)

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spellmanBy James David Spellman

Eurozone finance ministers extended Greece’s bailout package for four months on Tuesday (February 24) after accepting “reforms” proposed by Athens that are less onerous than what Brussels had originally imposed but more pragmatic than those the ruling Syriza party had just campaigned on.

"The three institutions agreed to start the process with this," Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said, referring to the list of commitments Greece would make in obtaining the extension. "They thought it was a serious enough list and all the countries have just agreed with that in the meeting so we can start."

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Grexit Unlikely but Leftist Party to Press for New Debt Terms after Taking Office (1/27)

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spellmanBy James D. Spellman, Strategic Communications LLC

An astounding victory by the populist, leftist Syriza (συριζα) party Sunday, larger than polls had been predicting, calls into question the ability of Brussels, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank to continue demanding "austerity" programs aimed at reducing onerous government debt believed to be constraining Eurozone growth.

Winning 149 seats in Parliament, two short of a ruling majority, Syriza formed a coalition with a small, right-wing party, the Independent Greeks (Anel), which also opposes austerity, the media reported. The new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said the "mandate" calls on him to negotiate "a new viable solution… for Greece and Europe" with Greece's European partners. The IMF and the European Commission have lent Greece €240 billion euros ($270 billion) since 2010 after Athens committed to reforms. Repayments are due as early as March.

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Ruble Rout and Financial Market Volatility - Pneumonia Ahead for Europe? (12/29)

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spellmanBy James David Spellman, Strategic Communications LLC

If Russia catches the flu, will Europe suffer pneumonia?

As the ruble plummeted in value just before Christmas, a new wave of volatility swept through Europe’s financial markets, underscoring the complex, deep interdependence of EU member-countries with Russia.

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European Parliament Lends Support for Palestinian Statehood (12/17)

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brianbeary-august2011By Brian Beary, Washington Correspondent for Europolitics Magazine

In a non-binding but important symbolic move, the European Parliament on December 17 voted to support recognizing Palestine as an independent state that goes “hand-in-hand with the development of peace talks.” The resolution was approved by a large majority, with 498 MEPs in favour, 88 against and 111 abstaining. It was a compromise text, one that allowed the five political groups who jointly crafted it to each put their own spin on the outcome. Thus, the center-right European People’s Party, Parliament’s largest group, which has qualms about moving hastily to bestow statehood, said the vote “clearly rejected the unconditional recognition separate from the peace negotiations.” By contrast, keen to ride the current pro-recognition wave, the center-left Socialists and Democrats group said it “reflects the initiative for Palestinian recognition that is sweeping parliaments across Europe.” The centrist Liberals and Democrats group described the vote as “a step forward towards the recognition of Palestine.”

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New Year, New Central Bank Measures to Promote EU Growth?: Investors Anxious for Bold Decisions as Concerns Shift to Oil Price Collapse, China’s Slowdown, the Russia’s Tailspin, Looming Eurozone Triple-Dip Recession (12/17)

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spellmanBy James David Spellman, Principal, Strategic Communications LLC

When Europe’s financial markets open in the New Year, investors will be looking for any signs indicating whether the European Central Bank will broaden and deepen measures to stimulate an economy that cannot throttle into high speed to outrace the mounting risks of Eurozone deflation.

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Perspectives: The Rise of “The Left” in German State of Thuringia (11/4)

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By Markus Ziener,  Berlin writer and former Handelsblatt Correspondent in Washington, DC

Sometimes local events can tell you quite a lot about national politics. That's why current events in the German state of Thuringia, located in the former East Germany,   should get our attention. For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany a local state will have a prime minister from the party “Die Linke”, The Left, which is the successor party to the former SED, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. The SED was the East German equivalent of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. But unlike the East German state that dissolved in 1990, the party remained – after having changed its name a few times. Later this month, it is all but certain that the head of “Die Linke”,  Bodo Ramelow, will be elected prime minister of Thuringia – with the help from the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party.

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