Category Archives: TransatlanticUS

Mladic’ arrest is no reason to celebrate

Yesterday was a very good day. One of the most disgusting criminals of the last decades has been arrested and should be brought to justice soon. Ratko Mladic was a key operator in the ‘Balkan wars’ of the 1990s – Europe’s darkest moment after Nazi Germany. The arrest of Mladic should remind us of three things. Firstly, no matter how bad your actions, no matter how much of a safe haven you think you have – they will catch you at last. Secondly, the war and hate Mladic and his false friends have seeded in the western Balkans is far from overcome. Bosnia and Herzegovina is years away from a functioning state (let alone society) and too many conflicts remain unresolved. It is shocking how a war of a few years can destroy communities, societies, economies and very fundamental trust between neighbours within the same street for decades. Thirdly, and most importantly, the arrest of Mladic is not a day to celebrate. It is a reminder! – It should (but I wonder if it does) remind us that all what he has done could happen again if Yugoslavia were to break up today. Despite all talk and good intentions Europe (i.e. the EU) still lacks the very capacities and the inner trust it needs to prevent such disasters in the future. If there is any lesson to draw from Mladic’ arrest yesterday, then it is to become serious about a truly common foreign policy for Europe. The western Balkans still need it, the Caucasus needs it, the southern and eastern Mediterranean need it – and most importantly we EUropeans need it.

Film tip: My favourite (and most moving) film about the Bosnian war is the BBC’s semi-documentary ‘Warriors‘.

Andrew Moravcsik on China (and Europe)

Yesterday’s speech of Andrew Moravcsik at the LSE was in many ways interesting and inspiring. I shall blog more about the substance in the forthcoming entry but thought I share his final remarks first.
When the chair Damien Chalmers intended to close the debate, Moravcsik asked to make a final statement. As a regular professor of politics and international relations at Stanford University he had spent his last year researching in China. As much as he loved the country and was inspired by its politics, he pointed to us, students of Europe, and made this really interesting statement:
After having talked to a Chinese leader for five minutes, he will acknowledge that China is still very far away from a global super power. At this moment, China is at most a middle power like Britain and will remain to be one at least for our generation. Therefore, studying the US and Europe, the two only global super-power, is as fascinating as it can be to study international relations these days.
Now this was warm words in everybody’s ears I guess. And it is so different from “Prof” Joschka Fischer who claims that the real balance of power is quickly shifting towards the US, India and China.

Obama in Berlin: so much about the UK’s special relationship

The one thing you learn when you spend time around UK politics, is the never-ending talk about the alleged UK-US “special relationship”. Tony Blair sucked up to that with his uncritical support of the US invasion in Iraq and whenever the slightest doubt about European integration is voiced from US politicians, you can be sure that UK politicians take it up – and defend their “special relationship”. Obama’s great speech in Berlin yesterday should once and for all put things straight: If anyone then Germany is the US’s first partner in Europe. It is by far its biggest economy, it holds key positions both in NATO and the EU and it is at the heart of Europe. If any one country makes sense to be a broker for the US in Europe it would be Germany. But if I was US president, I would obviously let the Brits in their belief of the special bond. – Yo Brits, follow where we tell.

But besides the (right) symbolical choice for the delivery of Obama’s speech in Berlin, the speech itself was actually good. There are three things that I will keep remembering. First was his insistence on freedom. “Freiheit” is a notion Continue reading

Capping CO2 emissions unilaterally shouldn’t trouble your economy too much

Leveling the Carbon Playing FieldThe current issue of the Economist (June 21st 2008) has an excellent article in Economic focus on the question of “carbon tariffs”. Apparently there has been very little study so far on the effects of introducing emission caps unilaterally in certain developed countries. Based on a first study by the MIT and a book by the Peterson Institute for International Economics the Economist article argues that there are (only) neglectable effects on a country like the US if it introduces CO2 capping systems without China and other emitters following on equal footing.

According to the analysis only few industries would be affected (metals, paper, chemicals, cement) and here either the share of energy costs is very little or all of its production can be sold at world markets due to production shortages in any case. But read the well-written article for the full argument.

I am very happy to read that first studies hint in this direction because it is high time to move forward in CO2 capping – both in the US and the EU. Secondly, I haven’t yet heard of any reasonable system that would be a fair way of calculating eventual carbon tariffs. So, luckily the economic evidence suggests that we can stop thinking about it and focus our efforts on convincing the US to finally introduce a cap-and-trade system.

Half of 15 top CO2 emitting countries hold elections before 2009 Copenhagen summit

Friends from E3G mentioned to me an interesting aspect with regards to the run-up of the decisive 2009 Copenhagen conference for a new global CO2-reduction agreement (the “new” Kyoto): Out of the 15 top emitting countries half is holding national elections until December 2009. As we can already see in the US campaign, the climate challenge is an issue in the campaign and luckily both sides are (at least) in favour of some sort of cap-and-trade system. We can hopefully see more of this in other countries.

Top 15 emitters (random order) holding elections until December 2009: US, India, Germany, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico – and the European Parliament.

Other top 15 emitters (random order): Australia, China, France, Italy, Brazil, South Korea, UK, Russia.

Obviously most of the countries holding elections are key countries for a global climate accord and it is worthwhile investing capacities in raising the issue in those countries. For my own country (Germany) I am absolutely sure that the Greens will present their own new innovative concepts to bring attention to the issue. This will hopefully raise the game and bring clarity in a current discussion which is blurred by big words and rather unproductive action. The two most interesting aspects in the German debate will possibly be how to involve the individual further in climate-friendly behaviour and secondly how the transport sector can better contribute to efforts.

However, it might be the European Parliament elections in early June 2009 that hold the key to Europe’s climate change policies. Only if the newly-elected Commission comes to Copenhagen with an ambitious target and the willingness to move ahead – with bold unilateral steps if need be – enough pressure on others can be exercised and an upward spiral can be imagined. – I hope for the best.

US and EU (presidential) elections are really very similar

US flagFew recent nominations in the US have been as exciting as the current Clinton vs Obama run-off for the Democrats. Equally exciting are current speculations about the first “EU president” (see my previous blog entries about this), a post that has to be filled by 1st January 2009. However, there is a crucial difference between these two run-offs: US primaries are possibly one of the most democratic and transparent exercises (with their own limitations of course) while the nomination of the president of the European Council is like magic. – After the European summit in October or mid-December Monsieur Sarkozy, head of the (rotating) EU presidency, will present the (candidate for) President of the European Council – like the magician pulls the white rabbit out of his hat. Ergo, the nomination of the EU president is in no way going through any sort of democratic/parliamentary scrutiny. The only kind of pre-evaluation is exercised by media speculating names up and down (see also our own speculations here).

This lack of scrutiny is also a reason for why Jon and I have started the WhoDoICall.eu initiative. We want the Commission President to be EU (Council) president at the same time. And at least s/he is (supposed to) follow some sort of democratic scrutiny and will be chosen in light of the outcomes of the EP elections.

But take aside the EU president and look at the more crucial selection of the EU executive, the Commission, and you find a high number of similarities between the EU and US systems: 1) both races are of contintenal scale, 2) both Continue reading

Understanding the US elections and primaries as a European

TMPelectioncentralThe US electoral system (culture) is probably superior to that of the EU and its member states due to its strong focus on personalities. Thanks to the primary system that stretches from early January into June, media can report on new polls and trends an a daily basis. – And this comes before the real race has even started in summer. On top of that media likes to present people instead of issues or simple debates as we have it during most of our European election campaigns. You can understand this media logic at no other time better than during these weeks with the field wide open both for Democrat and Republican candidates.

European (well, at least German) quality media has jumped on the trail and is covering the primaries very extensively. My impression is that generally Europeans favour Democrats over Republicans and Barack Obama has a little more sympathy than Hillary Continue reading

Steuervergleich USA – Deutschland

Congressional Budget OfficeIn der Frankfurter Allgemeinen bin ich vor vor wenigen Tagen über einen interessanten Artikel (“Keine Steuergeschenke an Reche“, 24.12.07) gestolpert. Der Artikel versucht darzustellen, dass trotz der Steuersenkungen von George W. Bush für die Superreichen ihr Anteil am Steueraufkommen noch minimal zugenommen hat. Interessant ist in erster Linie, dass der allergrößte Anteil der US-Einkommensteuern von den (super-)reichen aufgebracht wird. In Zahlen sieht das dann so aus: Das reichste Prozent der Amerikaner zahlt 2005 38,8% der Einkommensteuern, die reichsten 5% zahlen sogar 60,7%, die reichsten 10% zahlen 72,7% und die reichsten 20% (oberste Quintile) zahlt 86,3%. Die beiden Continue reading

Can European (blog-)journalism learn from the US?

It was a smooth 6 hour train journey mostly with the TGV and ICE. Coming late (here: one week before travelling!!) meant that I would not get the prefered seat at a table – actually no seat reservatation at all (remember: we are supposed to be in summer time). A good read was what I needed then and bought myself the FAZ, FT and DNA for the journey. The FT and its weekend magazine were excellent (as always). The one thing that kept me thinking most was the “Quick off the blog” article about one the US’s leading journalist-blogs, the Talking Points Memo.

TPM logoThe story behind its success is as simple as this. A freelance journalist started to put some of his unpublished articles on a blog. But more than that he started to try a follow-up to issues which he deems highly relevant for the US’s political life – but which were not taken up by the leading but careful mainstream newspapers. It all started off with the Florida recount and has lately led to the strong criticism and obvious abuse of powers by the US attorney-general (read European: minister for justice). Apparently his assistants were trying to get rid of illoyal federal attorneys all over the country. As long as this is perceived as an individual issue by the individual attorney and their local/state-wide public, no one would become suspicious. But only thanks to the adding up of several such cases over the whole country, the matter became one of significance.

What is interesting about this particular case is that it resembles some parallels to the lack of control of European multi-institutional affairs Continue reading