Monthly Archives: October 2010

When the E.U.’s heads of government meet later this week at one of their regular summits, it will mark the first time since narrowly saving Greece that they will take up a controversial set of rules aimed at preventing a future Greece-style implosion.

But nearly lost in the debate over the new rules - which has focused on how and when to fine countries who fail to get their debt levels down – are provisions in the proposed eurozone regulations that could have a much more politically explosive impact on national governments.

For the first time, the EU is proposing it should have a say on how to make individual economies more competitive. And if Brussels isn’t listened to? Fines could be imposed. Read more

The European parliament and its acolytes – assistants, journalists, and so on – are back in Strasbourg this week for the much-derided monthly plenary session. A couple of interesting votes, including one on the very subject of Strasbourg, are worth keeping an eye on.

One interesting feature of the European Parliament that my colleague Joshua Chaffin covered last year is that its members are now far more likely to vote along party lines than along national ones.

This is perhaps a bit surprising when you consider that a British MEP representing the centre-left Labour party is likely to be far closer on the political spectrum to a British centre-right Conservative than to a Socialist from almost any continental country. In many policy areas, the gaps in political thought between countries is often wider than between parties within each country.

But, to the delight of Europhiles, a study by VoteWatch, an independent group, showed that MEPs now vote with their parties in nine out of ten votes – compared to five or six in past decades.

It’s a useful way for Brussels to illustrate that the European Union is more than a series of clashes, rows and bust-ups between member states – that a true European polity is discussing European issues unaffected by narrow national interests. Read more

The FT’s “Saving the Euro” investigation will culminate in a live “hashtag” chat on Twitter between 1pm and 2pm (GMT) this afternoon with the author, Tony Barber, former Brussels bureau chief. Read more

“Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”

Penned more than three decades ago, Jean Monnet’s insight on the European Union, which the French statesman was so instrumental in founding, has certainly stood the test of time. Read more

In Europe’s capitals they still talk of the evening when George Papandreou, Greek prime minister, confessed to his fellow leaders that his nation was corrupt. “He was very impressive and very honest. He basically said: ‘My country is a corrupt country from A to Z,’” recalls one European Union policymaker present at the dinner in Brussels on December 10 2009 where Mr Papandreou bared Athens’ economic soul.

On a spring evening, a group of the world’s most powerful policymakers sat down to dinner at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue. The building, in the heart of the US government district, is a blend of modernist and neo-classical styles termed playful by some architecture critics. But the subject under discussion was deadly earnest: how to save Europe’s monetary union.

Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, made headlines Wednesday after he warned of the potential for a currency war – or, to be more precise, a “competitive non-appreciation” – if China did not allow the renminbi to appreciate more freely.

What was less noticed in his address was some equally tough talk for Europe, where he seems to see a danger of continent-wide austerity measures stifling the nascent global economic rebound. Read more

There was a common reaction that Chinese premiere Wen Jiabao and his entourage inspired as they swept through Brussels this week: Impressive. That word was uttered repeatedly by European business leaders, policymakers and diplomats on the sidelines of an EU-China Summit. At times, it seemed the Chinese were in motion while the natives stood still, watching with awe and envy as someone else’s national ascent played out.

Things were very different a decade ago, when an Asian banking crisis was raging. Now, in the midst of its own crisis, Europe is the one short of cash, humbly thanking Mr Wen for his promise to buy government bonds issued by Greece and other debt-plagued governments. That gesture has made it particularly awkward for European leaders to press demands that Beijing revalue its currency. Read more

Three days of summitry between EU and Asian leaders wraps up Wednesday in Brussels with the only “deliverable” – diplo-speak for a concrete achievement – of the entire event: the signing of a free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea.

But frequently, these international talkfests are more interesting for the atmospherics than any deals that are struck, and this week the mood has been more telling than most. Read more

One of the unwritten rules of a financial panic seems to be that the more severe a crisis is, the more scripted and repetitive public officials become.  Read more