Monthly Archives: April 2011

European Union diplomats will meet at 3pm today to discuss possible responses to the ongoing violence in Syria. Even before that meeting commences, one thing is clear: The EU’s Big Three are determined to begin work on sanctions against the Assad regime as quickly as possible.

A paper circulated by Germany, France and the UK ahead of today’s meeting, and obtained by the Financial Times, calls for member states to begin the prep work for travel bans and asset freezes against those top Syrian officials responsible for the violent crackdown against protestors.

“Our credibility depends on rapid action. Some steps can and should be taken immediately. Others will require run-up,” the paper states. “But the lesson learnt from other countries in the region is that we should put ourselves in a position to take action as quickly as possible on a wide variety of measures.”

The Big Three are also calling for an arms embargo and a cut-off of EU aid if the regime does not change its behaviour “within in a matter of days.” Read more

With France’s presidential election already in high gear, some top EU diplomats Brussels Blog has talked to in recent weeks are concerned that in the months leading to the summer break, the Brussels agenda could become overwhelmed by the politically sensitive issue of migration.

Tuesday’s summit between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is evidence their concerns are well placed.

For those who haven’t read it yet, it’s worth taking a look at the letter Berlusconi and Sarkozy sent to the EU’s two presidents, Commission chief José Manuel Barroso and Council boss Herman Van Rompuy. Pay special attention to the letter’s section III, where the two propose “enhanced security” in Europe’s visa-free Schengen area. Read more

As Brussels shuts down for the Easter holiday, those of us at the Brussels Blog would like to leave readers with a joyous thought to contemplate over the break: Arnold Schwarzenegger as president of the European Council.

As far fetched as the idea may seem, at least one former advisor to the Governator thinks it’s a runner: Terry Tamminen, who served as cabinet secretary (essentially chief policy advisor) to Schwarzenegger during the Austrian-born movie star’s tenure as California governor.

In a Schwarzenegger profile published in the new issue of Newsweek, Tamminen says he has already raised the possibility with his former boss.

“In the next few years, the EU will be looking for a much more high-profile president – somebody who can unify Europe,” Tamminen is quoted as saying. “The French won’t want a German, and the Germans won’t want an Italian. How about a European-born person who went off to America and…could return to be the Washington or Jefferson of a new unified Europe?” Read more

It’s been something of a rough week for European relations with China after the Spanish government erroneously put out word that Beijing was preparing to invest €9bn in its struggling savings bank. Chalk it up to an over-eager translation of Chinese intentions. Read more

Martin Wolf refers me to this new paper by Paul De Grauwe, The Governance of a Fragile Europe. It very well argued and, I think, entirely convincing. Unless something is done, the prognosis for the eurozone is not good. Here is the abstract: Read more

Talk that Greece has asked for its debt to be restructured and the anti-euro True Finns party gaining ground in the Finnish general election have undermined the single currency. Lex’s Sarah O’Connor and Luke Templeman discuss the economic and political problems facing the eurozone. Read more

What do the following stories have in common?

1. France has started to block trains from Italy to intercept illegal migrants from North Africa.

2. A Eurosceptic party has made big gains in the Finnish general election. Read more

Political junkies throughout Europe will, for one weekend at least, take their eyes away from the ongoing turbulence in Portugal and shift 3,500km to the northeast, where Finnish voters go to the polls on Sunday in what has become one of the most interesting national elections since the outbreak of the eurozone crisis.

As we’ve chronicled in the FT for several months, the once safely pro-EU Scandinavian country has seen an incredible surge in support for the populist True Finns party, which has run on an avowedly anti-euro and “no more bail-outs” platform. A victory for the party, led by MEP Timo Soini, could throw a huge wrench into EU efforts to rescue Portugal.

The final opinion poll going into Sunday’s vote shows True Finns support slipping a bit, however. Last month, a TNS Gallup poll put them in second place at 18.3 per cent, just 2 percentage points behind the front-running centre-right National Coalition party. The latest TNS Gallup survey had them at just 16.9 per cent, however, and a survey issued Thursday by public broadcaster YLE put Soini back in fourth with just 15.4 per cent. Read more

There is the CIA, which orchestrates drone attacks in North Waziristan and plots to topple foreign governments, and then there is the CIAA, a shadowy organisation that seeks to influence cloned meat standards, nutrition labels and other European policies governing the continent’s food and drink industries.

In an attempt to end all confusion, the CIAA, one of Brussels’ more muscular industry trade groups, is changing its name on June 23. “It’s quite an important thing, a new name. It’s a new identity,” says Lisa McCooey, the group’s Brussels-based operative, er, communications director.

The confédération des industries agro-alimentaire del’UE was born 30 years ago, when French was the lingua franca of the European Union and the acronymous similarities with a large US government organisation based in Langley, Virginia must have gone unnoticed. Read more

Is it possible that people are overreacting to the crisis at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear facility? Read more