Why the EU deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU on Friday was met with predictable derision from the likes of Nigel Farage, who described it the decision as “baffling,” and leader of the Tory MEPs  Martin Callanan, who said it was “a little late for an April Fools’ Joke.”  Admittedly, the current social unrest across Southern Europe made the award seem a little incongruous, especially coming just days after Angela Merkel’s visit to Greece was met with violent protests in Athens. Yet in fact, this was precisely the logic behind the decision by the Norwegian committee, as explained in their statement; that in these times of instability it is especially important to remember the EU’s contribution to peace and prosperity on the continent. In this way the award serves both as a timely reminder of what the EU has achieved, and as a warning of what could happen if it were to collapse. Continue reading

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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

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

The truth about the Robin Hood Tax

Imagine a minute tax on banks which could raise billions of pounds a year, allowing us to turn round the NHS, improve education, and tackle global poverty and climate change.  It sounds too good to be true. Yet this is exactly what advocates of the ‘Robin Hood Tax’ claim would be possible, if only our governments could get together and agree to do something about the significantly under-taxed financial sector… Continue reading

Despite the Euro crisis-Britain still needs Europe

When the Euro crisis first began to unfold back in 2010 it was greeted by many in the U.K.with a certain sense of schadenfreude. There was an air of smug satisfaction that we had decided not to join the single currency, and many argued that those countries that had joined should deal with their own mess and leave Britain to focus on its own painful economic recovery Continue reading

Anti-capitalist protests: a pointless trend or the foundations of an alternative system?

The demonstrators occupying St Paul’s, as well as similar protesters in Wall Street and throughout the world, have seemed to capture the headlines for all the wrong reasons. First they were branded as hypocrites for consuming capitalist goods, as if owning a mobile phone or buying a coffee from Starbucks automatically disqualified them from any criticism of the current economic system. The purchase of one flavoured latte, so the argument went, clearly amounts to a complete endorsement of unbridled capitalism, therefore undermining any argument for a fairer and better regulated global economy. The implication is that anyone concerned about the excesses of the free market should strip to a loincloth and revert to a barter economy if they want their views to be taken seriously Continue reading

Afghanistan Ten Years On: View from the Frontline

Phil, a Lance-Corporal in the British Army, reaches into his wallet and shows me the Taliban bullet that only narrowly missed him during his tour in Afghanistan last year. An old school friend who is now a Lance-Corporal in the British Army, Phil spent six months as a recovery mechanic embedded with the Scottish Guards just north of Lashkar Gar, Helmand province. His unit was subject to one of the fiercest tours of 2010, with nearly seven-hundred contacts with the enemy over seven months. Now, exactly one year today since his return and in the wake of the tenth anniversary of the initial US-led invasion, I ask him what he thinks about this seemingly endless conflict… Continue reading