It’s not a case of austerity v stimulus for Europe

Calls for a more growth-led approach dominated last week’s informal EU summit, but European leaders made little progress in the ongoing discussions over the best way to overcome the economic crisis – and stalled over disagreements about eurobonds and the role of the European Central Bank. The debate over the future of the eurozone continues to veer between two extremes: stimulus v austerity. “You cannot spend your way out of a debt-fuelled recession”, shout those on one side of the divide. Others, mostly from the left, respond that economic recovery is not possible without a major influx of public spending. But what if there’s a more meaningful discussion to be had about finding an effective middle ground, combining sustainable fiscal policy with long-term economic recovery? Continue reading

France did not reject European austerity, it rejected Sarkozy

President François Hollande’s call for a new growth-led approach has resonated with many people across Europe who continue to suffer from a seemingly endless cycle of economic decline and painful public sector cuts. Nobel prize-winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, who have strongly criticised the self-defeating nature of the Eurozone’s austerity-based economic policy, have also welcomed his election as a much needed breath of fresh air. Yet amidst this initial wave of optimism, it is important to remain realistic about what Hollande can truly achieve. Continue reading

Spread the word about this EU push for citizen participation

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Most people probably won’t have even heard of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), introduced on the 1st April last week. Hailed as the first transnational instrument of participatory democracy in world history, it allows members of the public to call for new European laws on issues of their choice, provided they have a million supporting signatures from at least seven member states. But despite its alleged aim of bringing the EU closer to its citizens, it hasn’t aroused much interest outside of the so-called ‘Brussels Bubble’. Instead, it seems to have primarily got the attention of lobbyists eager to use it to their advantage. If the initiative is to succeed in actually giving a voice to everyday citizens rather than special interest groups, it is crucial that more people are made aware of it and how they can become involved. Continue reading

The Untold Story – Arms imports and the Greek debt crisis

Last week I went to a talk by Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas at LSE in which he made the usual grim diagnosis about the debt crisis in Greece. The country was in dire need of structural reforms, he said, both to its economy and society. Leaders across the continent have been making similar criticisms, with Sarkozy and Merkel warning the Greek government last month that it wouldn’t receive new bailout funds unless it fully implemented austerity measures. And despite the significant debt swap agreed on today, any EU bail-out remains conditional on the country implementing a further round of budget cuts. Yet one area of the Greek budget doesn’t seem to have received such scrutiny, its huge military spending. The reason is simple, France and Germany still account for the vast majority of arms sales to Greece.

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Leader of the 1968 Student Revolt and radical Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit on his idea of Europe

MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, prominent leader of the student revolts which erupted throughout Europe in 1968, came to Kings College London on 28th February to give a talk on where the EU should be headed in these equally turbulent times. Originally nicknamed ‘Danny the Red’ for his outspoken anarchist views, Cohn-Bendit became known as ‘Danny the Green’ when he joined the environmentalist movement during the 1980s. He is now co-president of the European Greens–European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, and has become known for his fiery wit, idealism and willingness to challenge the status quo. Continue reading

What next in Syria?

The deaths of two Western journalists in Homs on Wednesday 22nd February appear to have been a critical turning point in the Syrian conflict. The Assad regime’s continuing refusal to halt its relentless shelling of the city are now leading to growing clamours for intervention in the Western media, and US and EU leaders have unanimously called for action. As every day brings yet more civilian deaths, and the specific targeting of reporters stokes fears that an imminent massacre is being planned, the pressure to act is rapidly growing. Continue reading

ACTA Protests: “Government of the People, by the Lobby Groups, for the Corporations”

European officials probably thought that no-one would take much notice when they signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on 26th January, on behalf of the EU and 22 of its member-states. Two weeks later, mass protests erupted in cities all across Europe against the controversial treaty, criticising the secretive nature in which it was negotiated and claiming it will lead to a significant curtailing of internet freedom. Continue reading

Crime, transport and the battle for London Mayor

Just six months ago today London was emerging from its third night of rioting, with a semblance of order only just beginning to take hold as a massive police presence descended on the city. The fear in the streets was palpable. We had been given a brief and terrifying glimpse of what sheer anarchy looked like, the rage and shameless opportunism of London’s marginalised youth provoking deep existential questions about what was wrong with our society.

Yet, as the contest for London Mayor begins to build up momentum, Ken and Boris’ campaigns continue to revolve around the same old topic of public transport, ignoring the deeper societal issues at stake Continue reading

China, the EU and the new race for Africa

In Luanda, the capital of Angola, Chinese construction workers are relentlessly putting up another skyscraper, one of many which have been popping up like mushrooms all over the city over the past few years. Back in 2002, this was a barren, impoverished place, ravaged by decades of civil war. Now it is the centre of one of the fastest growing economies on the planet, with new infrastructure and construction projects rapidly transforming the face of the country. Continue reading

The Internet Strikes Back

After SOPA and PIPA: the Entertainment Industry Needs to Adapt not Resist

The 18th January saw the Internet rise up and rear its head in an unprecedented show of force, with online giants such as Google, Wikipedia and Reddit leading a massive campaign against SOPA and PIPA, the planned anti-piracy bills being debated in the US Senate and Congress. Perhaps most hard-hitting, especially to students, was the terrifying ‘black-out’ of Wikipedia, which asked hapless users to “imagine a world without free knowledge.” Social networking sites soon began to buzz with talk about the dangers of the planned piracy bills, and by the end of the day political support for the bills had crumbled. American lawmakers and politicians began to realise just how much they had underestimated the power of the internet. Continue reading

Jack Straw on Britain, Europe and the EU’s “existential crisis”

Jack Straw came to UCL last month and gave an inaugural lecture on Britain and Europe, after having been named Visiting Professor in Public Policy. Throughout his 33 year career the Labour MP has had experience in nearly every senior cabinet position, having served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Leader of the House of Commons. Continue reading

Debating the British Bill of Rights: Shami Chakrabarti at Europe House

The European Parliament’s  office in the UK recently held a debate at Europe House as part of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2011. The topic was centred around the controversial British Bill of Rights, proposed as an alternative to the current system based on the Human Rights Act Continue reading

Why reforming the House of Lords should be a priority

The House of Lords represents a long-standing paradox in the UK. Despite proudly proclaiming ourselves as the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy, we continue to grant significant powers to an unelected elite, some of whom are selected solely on the basis of their noble birth or religious affiliation. But whilst all three major political parties are officially committed to democratic reform of the upper house, achieving this goal any time soon remains an unlikely prospect… Continue reading