On April 17th, The European Institute, in cooperation with the Embassy of Latvia and the Embassy of the Russian Federation, held a breakfast discussion on the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) and its potential transformation into a key economic and commercial transcontinental corridor.  Panel speakers, including Aivis Ronis, Latvian Minister of Transportation; Oleg Stepanov, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Russian Federation; Antonio de Lecea, Principal Adviser at the Delegation of the European Union; The Honorable Robert Hormats, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment; and Susan Kurland, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Transportation, offered their perspectives on current efforts to shift the NDN from a military logistics system into a viable commercial link between Afghanistan and the international community.  Beyond economic benefits, the panel speakers indicated that the harmonization of regional attitudes, as well as transnational movement of ideas, promise to be products of this ongoing process to establish a “modern Silk Road.”

Despite the sovereign debt woes of some countries in the eurozone, the euro currency itself has stood up strongly (surprising so to many) in currency markets, particularly against the dollar. That rate has changed in recent weeks, in favor of the dollar: the euro has now depreciated by nearly 10 percent against the dollar. The falling euro's international value could make European exports more competitive globally, particularly those of Germany and Italy. The euro has been "devalued" slightly in currency markets as (1) the U.S. economy has shown signs of revival and as (2) the European Central Bank's policy of maintaining very low interest rates under the bank's new head, Mario Draghi.  If it lasts for six months, a euro "devaluation" of this sort could add a point economic growth in some eurozone countries (and also make existing loans a little cheaper to pay off), analysts say. That, in turn, could spare the EU as a whole from sinking back into recession and facilitate the reform process in troubled eurozone economies such as convalescent Italy.

By European Affairs

Amid ongoing international discussions about the Arctic sea as it unfreezes more of the year and opens for traffic, Russian maritime companies are starting to use its widening channels as a sea route that can shorten the distance between Europe and Asia during longer and longer parts of the summer as the polar ice pack recedes. Running along Russia’s shore, this expanding new “Northern Sea Route” is the sea-going version of the “over the pole” flights that have become routine for aircraft. [Here is a New York Times map of the NSR through the Eastern Arctic]

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On October 4, 2011, The European Institute held a seminar in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, European Commission and Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s EU-Japan-U.S. Trilateral Critical Materials Initiative.  The Honorable David Sandalow, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy for Policy and International Affairs, The Honorable Reinhard Bütikofer, Vice Chair of the European Parliament’s Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and Member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, European Parliament; and His Excellency Ichiro Fujisaki, Ambassador of Japan to the United States presented keynote remarks.  Panelists included: Gwenole Cozigou, Director for chemicals, metals, mechanical, electrical, construction industries and raw materials, DG Enterprise and Industry at the European Commission; Herbert von Bose, Director for Industrial Technologies, DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission; Cyrus Wadia, Senior Policy Analyst, Environment and Energy Division at the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy; Charles Cogar, Legislative Director for U.S. Representative Mike Coffman; Komei Halada, Managing Director for the Center for Strategic Natural Resources at the Japanese National Institute for Materials Science; Keiichi Kawakami, Deputy Director General, Manufacturing Industries Bureau at the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; Stephen Collocott, Group Leader, Novel Alloys, Magnetics and Drives at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; Anil Arora, Assistant Deputy Minister, Minerals and Metals Sector, Natural Resources Canada; Alain Rollat, Technology Development Manager for Rhodia Rare Earth Systems; Maurits Van Camp, Coach, Recycling and Extraction Technology Platform, Umicore; and Jim Sims, Vice President for Corporate Communications at Molycorp.  The discussion was moderated by The Honorable Bart Gordon, Partner at K&L Gates LLP.

Recent outbreaks in food-borne illness in both Europe and the U.S. – such as the E.coli episode this summer in Germany (that affected some transatlantic travellers) and the U.S. scare and recall involving salmonella-infected ground turkey meat – have underscored the need for better protection and inspection of foodstuffs and other agricultural products.

But efforts to tackle the issue are encountering problems on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular, funding problems have beset Congressional-mandated reforms in the U.S.

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