Wednesday, April 30, 2003
This line in a comment on CalPundit's blog sparked some thoughts:
"Measured by military and economic power, France's leverage is artificially increased by their SC veto, but so is Britain's."
And so is the United States. Or actuallly, it's not just the veto but rather UNSC membership, and UN membership generally. The UN is a huge amplifier of American power. Isn't it obvious that if the US quit the UN its power to influence other nations would decrease?
Meanwhile, I don't see how the UN is a constraint on US power. The cost of angering and alienating other nations is a constraint, but leaving the UN would exerberate that problem.
The UN can be seen as a tradeoff between the great powers and all the smaller nations, and since the United States is the lone superpower, particulary between the US and the other nations: the powerful take responsibility for imposing a modicum of order on the chaos and anarchy of international relations, (which is actually good for the powerful too), and in return the rules and agreeents will ber on the powerful's terms, and their power is amplified.
That's I guess the non-Idealist case for the UN, maybe not purely Realist, but thoroughly non-idealistic Idealist if you know what I mean. I don't see anyone making it, oddly enough, but from a US perspective isn't it more persuasive than the usual Liberal/Idealist argument?
Changed the name of the blog to reflect the new direction (what direction that is, I don't quite know yet.)
The US has signed a cease fire with the People's Mujahadeen. This is pretty disconcerting because it cold mean the administration is thinking of invading Iran.
The People's Mujahedeen, aka MEK, was one of the groups who opposed the Shah. As part of their struggle they killed several Americans in the seventies. They took part in the '79 revolution, and supported the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979. When Khomeini seized power they strongly resisted and killed lots of mullahs but were struck down. They then stuck an alliance with Saddam (at war with Iran at the time.) and a force of currently 10 000 people have been in Iraq since, sometimes making incursions into Iran. They've also carried out assasinations and bombings against military targets inside Iran, killing plenty of civilian bystanders.
These aren't nice people: They have a fairly substantial following among emigrées (including a former classmate of mine) and have been known to make defectors disappear. They're hardly democrats, there's quite a cult of personality. They're somewhat odd: they mix marxism, nationalism, islamism, and after the fonder was succeeeded by his widow, feminism. It's uncertain if she, or the leader of the ared wing, the NLA, is in charge.
Here's what's weird: Despite being added to the State Department's list of terrorist organizations in 1997 and the Iraq connection, they have plenty of skilled lobbyists in Washington, and have any supporters in Congress, (there was an articlle in The Hill about it recently) and among anti-Iran hardliners in the foreign policy establishment. The US position have been oddly ambigious, and now seems to lean in favor of them. Now this is quite problematic, because you sort of lose the moral highground in the war against terrorism if you give "good" terrorist a pass. But what really worries me is something else.
A month ago Michael Crowley, writing in Slate, made a very keen observation:
"Whatever happens when American troops encounter NLA—either outside Baghdad or in northern Iraq—may offer a hint about Bush administration policy toward Iran (the third stop on the Axis of Evil Tour). If we leave the NLA brigade alone, it may signal that U.S. relations with Iran are likely to turn icy."
So when I heard they wrere bombed, I was relieved. Now I'm worried again. A reasonable guess is that the neocons and State had one of their battles over this and the neocons won. That should mean a more hardline stance towards Iran that will only strengthen the hardliners, and, especially considering other signals from the US recently, that war has definitely not been ruled out, and that's very scary. The Post article doesn't seem to be connecting any dots here, nor have any other article I've seen. Of course, it's possible this is the wrong reading of the situation, but people should be made aware of this.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
An archeological sensation. Perhaps providing consolation after the loss of thousands of irreplaceable objects from ancient Mesopotamia in the recent looting.
Thank Providence, noone dropped a bomb on it.
This article by Matt Welch on Vaclav Havel is great. Read it.
Another thing I'm not sure of is how much I'll do 'primers' on the EU, 'what does CAP mean', etc? I'm thinking of going in that direction, but it depends on what audience I have. Do you already know those things? Do you even exist?
I need input!
Monday, April 28, 2003
I don't quite which direction to go with this blog....
I want to write more commentary, my own thinking. I do have some thoughts on what effects enlargement will have, plans to coment Democracy in Europe by Larry Siebentrop. Never get around to it.
My ambition has been to post on most if not all major news stories. It's a lot of work, not always very stimulating and I'm getting behind. But I feel there's a need for this kind of blog.
I didn't want to start yet another blog and post on whatever everyone else talks about (very seldom the EU). But that cuts e off fro all the back-and-forth and interaction with other blogs, and I have a lot of other interests than EU politics and have things to say. But I don't think I can do that AND cover everything that happens.
Everything would be a lot easier if I knew I had any readers, ie people who doesn't just visit once. I've been amazingly disciplined with doing updates considering. Esp. since I'm parthologically apathetic in everything else.
Feeling a little burned out.
Clicked on the link, and found myself in heaven.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Saturday, April 26, 2003
On a completely diffferent note, it's amazing how similar Henry's literary tastes and mine are it seems, both fiction and non-fiction.
Henry Farrell says:
Brad de Long gives extensive quotes from an article by Martin Feldstein in the FT, telling Britain to stay out of the euro. Feldstein accurately identifies himself as a long time skeptic of European economic and monetary union. He's less forthcoming about the precise nature of his skepticism, which goes (or at the very least used to go) far beyond the standard Optimal Currency Area nostrums that he cites in the FT piece. Feldstein wrote a quite notorious article in Foreign Affairs back in 1997, predicting that even though the EU was supposed to end all wars, the euro would likely lead to "increased conflict" among the EU's member states. What kinds of conflict? Well, "[a]lthough it is impossible to know for certain whether these conflicts would lead to war, it is too real a possibility to ignore in weighing the potential effects of EMU and the European political integration that would follow." Feldstein also ruminates darkly about Germany's aspirations towards European hegemony, citing Helmut Kohl's statement that "Germany is our fatherland, but Europe is our future" as being "not without ambiguity."
Sure but what about the issue? I'm not as pessimistic as Edward Hugh, but I think I will vote no in september.
Friday, April 25, 2003
Bonobo Land is a really great blog, go read it.
Via Brad DeLong, via Edward Hugh, Marty Feldstein in FT on the euro:
Found the think tank piece!
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Via Neil Gaiman, a Guardian article on how British school textbooks have been rewritten to deemphasize conflicts and stress positive asapects of every nation's history, giving them a pro-unification slant.
I find it odd and hard to believe that these international organizations would have a huge influence on British education. Anyone knowledgeable care to comment?
I imagine froth coming out of the mouths of our friends over at Samizdata as they read this, or at least the more shrill eu-bashing bloggers that I haven't bothered including in my blogroll.
Neil, however, is amused:
My own take on this is that almost every school textbook I'vre encountered have been utterly worthless, so I can't get too worked up about it.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
What I've been reading recently:
Oliver, Roland: The African experience (1994ish)
Truly a pleasure to read, and the concept of covering the entire history of Africa through standalone essays is brilliant. As for the history, he seriously underplays the damage colonialism caused. Discounts damage/influence of slavery too, but there I don't have an independent opinion, but I think his views are in the minority. He don't belive in diffusion (of agriculture etc) either, and generally ignores Europeans before the 1880s, which is a nice change from other wrtitings on Africa. He's some interesting things to say about trade and political culture, seems smart. And he was apparantly praised by the NY review among others. To summarize, Very well written, insightsful, but some heterodox, and questionable, views.
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Some things come to mind re this comittee business:
This nicely demonstrates how the the lack of attention paid to the EU is A Very Bad Thing. Why wasn't this an issue years ago? And it still wouldn't if this Swedish scientist (not a journalist!) hadn't made it an isssue.
And wouldn't it be great if the euhacks we have would be more critical and questioning? (Note that I'm not asking for a more eurosceptic slant, I'm asking for less lazness.)
Lack of attention = lack of scrutiny + lack of serious thinking about the EU = no pressure to do well or to reform = lack of checks on the EU from the 4th estate or public opinion.
Kinnock's response to the report on Council comittees I wrote about on April 13: attacking the council for being even worse.
Reacting to the criticism, rather than trying to deflect the criticism would have been nice. On the other hand, it's good the council's flaws comes under scrutiny too, now there's pressure on both to reform. Let's hope this will result in reforms eventually.
I now have a commmenting system thanks to the fine folks at Enetation.
I've discovered links to Financial Times expire within less than a weeks time. That's incredibly dumb of them, and incredibly annoying because their coverage of the EU is only equaled by EUobserver, and I can't avoid referencing their stories. But I will try to use alternative sources whenever possible, and make sure to quote generously from FT stories.
Well, I'm back. Friday's posts were written in a hurry right before I left. That's the reason for the typos and non-links. I bow my head in shame and apologize to my faithful readers. I've fixed them, but I can't find the link to the think tank thingie. More later.
Friday, April 18, 2003
I'll be gone until Monday or Tuesday. Will search for easter eggs with family, and spend quality time, etc. Happy Easter everyone. (Merry? Something else? Whatever.)
See you around.
There is actually another blog like mine actually, EU News Digest, though much drier, and with fewer updates. Maybe he's smarter than me though, eh? I put it in my blogrooll some days ago, along wih many others. I've been googling for eu-related blogs, a lot.
>>The days are over in Europe when only leaders of big states get together to prepare common positions ahead of important European summits.<<
Was that ever the case? They had good reason anyway, considering this, per FT:
>>But M. Giscard d'Estaing, whose 105-member convention has been working on the proposals for more than a year, said: "One thing to take into account is the number of states, but we also have to take into account their populations, because we operate in a democracy here.<<
What the're arging about is the harebrained idea of replacing the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council with a president serving for a minimum of five years, supported by the big five, plus Denmark, Sweden and Poland, opposed by the rest
(18 small states.) This think tank lists the many flaws of the scheme, better than I could. I need to put the think tanks in my link roll - though most of their position papers aren't as good as one may think, they're mostly editorials with eurospeak really.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Around the blogs
Maria Farrell on a parliament resolution on the third pillar.
This in indeed disturbing. There's a wider context here: As more and more decisions get made on the EU level, the democratic deficit gets more and more unacceptable, this is especially true when we've got to questions of civil rights, etc. This underlines that the democratic deficit is no longer something we can live with, , if it ever was, trading democracy for efficiency or whatever is not a fair bargain. More later.
FT on the signing. Quite well written, captures the moment, some wry comments. Makes you realize how dry and well, AP-like most articles on the EU are. Why is that?
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Today is the signing of the accession treaty. A meta-event to be sure, but a historical meta-event. I don't have time to write down any longer reflections on this, but it's a great day for Europe to be sure. For all its faults, the EU has been a tremendous positive influence on the history of Central Europe, and therefore Western Europe too. We're all in the same boat, and Union was the logical outcome.
I should mention the Maltese election a couple of days ago was won by the pro-EU government, eaning it's certain they'll join.
Well, what I said essentially:
Holy crap, I'm getting linked and read! A warm welcome to all my readers.
Despite udating every day, and mostly with ultiple posts, I feel like I'm neglecting the blog. These are heady days for the EU, enlargement, the constitutional convention, the crisis in transatlantic relations, the ero issue, and lots of other things too. History in the making, etc. Interesting times, for good or ill. S lots of updates coming.
Monday, April 14, 2003
Googling for more info turns up this
A translation of the original article.
Mention in Washington Post op-ed
short short MSNBC piece
Russian tv transcript (?)
I wasn't the first blogger to notice.
One of the is apparently a former deputy defense minister.
Why isn't this getting any attention?
This is rather startling< Last week it was disclosed that two retired three-star generals -- Vladislav Achalov (a former paratrooper and specialist in urban warfare) and Igor Maltsev (a specialist in air defense) -- visited Baghdad recently and were awarded medals by Hussein. The awards were handed out by Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Khashim Akhmed.
It was reported that the retired generals helped Hussein prepare a war plan to defeat the Americans. Achalov confirmed he was in Baghdad just before the war and received medals from Hussein for services rendered. He also told journalists that the defense of Baghdad was well organized, U.S. tanks would be burned if they enter the city and U.S. infantry would be slaughtered. According to Achalov, the only way the allies could ever take Baghdad and other Iraqi cities was to raze them to the ground by carpet bombing. >
Sunday, April 13, 2003
84% yes, 16% no, but turnout was a disturbingly low 46%. Here's BBC's take on it. So the naysayers stayed home rather than voting no.
And here's one reason why this is a Very Bad Thing (besides little things like the democratic deficit, eurocreep, etc):
Granted, things weren't quite as bad as in 1999, but I (and others) think the main reason they're letting the commission off the hook is that they feel the EU can't afford another constitutional crisis and paralyzed executive, especially with all the accession referendums, but before that the negotiations, the Irish vote, the Convention - just generally. The Liberals pretty much admits it:
Now here's why it's good to read EUobserver (or this blog!):
I'm quoting extensively, because this is a must-read but read the whole thing.
You can read the whole report online! (Huge pdf file.) (Yes, in English of course.)
The results are in and a full 80 percent of Hungarians voted yes.
Some quick comments: There's some correlation between the order of referendums and how positive the electorates have been, with Hungary one of the first and the sceptic Baltics last. With a narrow victory the other yes campaigns would maybe have lost some momentum, and now they've gained some. I don't think it really makes any difference though, (didn't help in 1995) but a no somewhere could make a difference.
Also, I gotta say this feels quite enheartening. I may have my reservations about the EU, but right now I feel like a Young Federalist. This is great.
I'll try to find some good English language report, hold on a sec...
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Now for some actual news. There's popular votes in two countries on accession to the EU today. In Hungary there's a referendum today. Support is down (from landslide to solid admittedly), FT covers why, but a no win would be sensational.
The outcome is less certain in Malta, though a yes win is likely. Malta has actually had its referendum a month ago, resulting in a narrow yes win, the vote today is a general election. But the anti-EU Labour opposition questioned the legitimacy of the vote they had even called for a boycott, but turnout was high) and won't respect the vote, but wait, "negotiate a partnership with the EU" and then call a new referendum.
< The result of the referendum on EU membership held on 8 March brought a narrow majority to the yes side, but was contested by the Labour Party which said that less than half of the electorate voted yes. >
That's true of nearly all referendus isn't it? And it's unlikely the winner of the election will have a majority of all eligible voters. Qite rearkable, but politics in Malta is very partisan, I understand.
In a way I can sympathize, as a supporter in representatve democracy I'm sceptical of a referendum in a question that cane handled in a parlientary framework, (unlike in most countries where like 80% of parliament support the yes side.) but this is question of sovereignty.
ego, meta-blogging (cont'd)
Another take on the dearth of EU blogs is that it's seen as dull. I showed this blog to someone who proclaimed it so dull it should win an award. British papers make a habit of writing "This EU article isn't that dull, honest" type of articles (very much a self-defeating strategy). I've never understood that. I find the EU extremely fascinating. The very things that makes it a political challenge also makes it an intellectual challenge: It being a "different beast" without precedent, the coplexity of it all. Unless you're a buffoon who generally isn't interested in politcs or society, it makes no sense to not be interested in the EU.
Having said that, eurobabble has an astonishing ability to make everything sound as exciting as a weekend in Minsk. One of earlier posts was full of eurospeak, (Teel made his comment when that was the most recent post), and it doesn't make for an interesting read. I promise never to do it again.
Friday, April 11, 2003
ego, meta-blogging, the fate of european democracy
There aren't a lot of attention paid to the EU in the blogosphere. In a way, hardly surprising when you consider how American-dominated the blogoshere is, and how political/current events blogs all talk about the same things more or less, but on the other hand there are like hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, covering all things under the sun, and I haven't found one blog focusing on the EU or European (as in, the continent as a whole) politics. Isn't that odd?
It could be seen as a example of a great problem for the European project, that there is no pan-european media, public sphere, or venues for debate on EU matters; and how then can there be functioning EU democracy, how can there be a European demos?
No one reads reads the EUobserver and the like except politicians, eurocrats and eurohacks. (And me of course.)
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Around the blogs
Some interesting points raised in the comments section to this Mattew Yglesis post (good blog by the way.)
Maria Farrell on some great, underreported news here:
Henry Farrell, in the same blog, on International institutions and democracy. He's talking about democratizing Iraq in a wider context, raises some good points about the EU's role in encouraging democracy.
Their permalinks don't work for some reason, so just go here and read the last April 7 post and the first April 6 one.
Update: Neither does Yglesias, so go here.
Brad DeLong posted something interesting some days ago:
< As time passes, and as the European periphery becomes richer and richer, its real exchange rates vis-a-vis the European industrial core have to rise. This is the Balassa-Samuelson effect: poor countries have low real exchange rates because international trade is concentrated among the capital- and technology-intensive goods in which rich countries' absolute advantage is greatest, and so as countries catch up to the industrial core, their real exchange rates rise. In the case of poor countries inside the euro zone, convergence and the consequent rise in real exchange rates requires faster inflation than in the industrial core.
If development on the European periphery is successful, and if growth on the European periphery is rapid, then inflation on the European periphery will be rapid too. This means that, if eurozone-wide inflation is to be low, there must be deflation--falling prices--in the German-Belgian-French industrial core of the euro zone. Deflation is, in general, a bad idea for lots of reasons, one of the chief of which is the catastrophic consequences of nominal wage cuts for worker morale.
Yet as long as the ECB takes its goal to be low inflation eurozone-wide--rather than low inflation in the eurozone's industrial core, with the developing periphery seen as a special case--it seems that the ECB has committed itself to a much more contractionary monetary policy than even the Bundesbank would have ever dared impose on the Bundesrepublik. >
There were quite bright comments, and some critiques of his premise that sounded fairly convincing.
But I'm no economist.
I recently conducted an interview with brilliant webcomics artist Michael Patrick. Comics is my great passion, along with film, literature, political philosophy , history, politics, and of course EU politics. So expect occasional posts on comics and those other topics. Also some humorous or whimsical posts and links.
economy, candidate countries
Hey, good economic news:
< According to the Commission's Spring 2003 Economic Forecasts for the Candidate Countries, economic growth in the future Member States has only slightly slowed down during 2002 despite worsened international economic climate. In 2003, growth should reach 3.1 percent for the ten future members and 3.5 percent for all candidate countries. An expected return to more favourable international conditions should allow to reach average growth of around 4 percent in 2004 in future members and 4.3 percent in all candidate countries. >
enlargement, European Parliament
Here's what the Parliament enlargement beef was about:
< The compromise resolves the row over Annex XV from the Treaty, which encroaches on the Parliament's rights to co-decision in budgetary matters by fixing the budget for the future Member States. >
< Under the agreement, a joint declaration by the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission will ensure their respect for the interinstitutional agreement of May 1999 on budgetary discipline.>
I love this headline.
Chirac's insults to the candidate countries some months ago was pretty astonishing, on par with the Bush admin at their worst when it comes to bad bullying "diplomacy" achieving the opposite of what was intended. It added to their (understandable) paranoia about being second-rate members, which has been a quite negative influence. But the damage done to their relationship with France may actually be mostly a good thing. French influence is too strong; CAP, etatist reflexes, etc...
enlargement, European Parliament
EU Parliament clears path for enlargement
This wasn't as unproblematic as you (well, me) might think:
< The vote was endangered all the way up to the last minute due to a disagreement between the Parliament and the Council regarding the financial annexe introduced in the Accession Treaty. In order to settle the issue, Parliament asked Council to raise the EU 25 budget for 2004-2006. The request was accepted after much debate just 24 hours before the vote. >
Of course, there was never any question it wouldn't be solved somehow.
In related news, the Czechs were recently armtwisted into apologizing for the expulsion of Sudeten Germans and expropriation of their property after WW2, but still got the most no votes for taking so long. You can tell their hearts weren't in it:
< President Vaclav Klaus recently apologised for the decrees and said that what the nazi Germans did to the Czech population during the WWII was just as unacceptable as what the Czechs did to the Sudeten Germans after the war. [my emph.] >
One would have thought the order should be reversed.
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Italy will breach the pact too
< The European Commission on Tuesday publishes its eagerly awaited Spring economic forecasts, which are expected to confirm that Italy is set to join Germany, France and Portugal in the growing group of countries in breach of the European Union's budget rules. >
It's gloom all around:
< The Commission is also expected on Tuesday to cut its eurozone growth forecast for 2003 to 1 per cent from the 1.8 per cent it predicted last autumn. >