November 24, 2009Almost like answering Henry Kissinger’s famous question--Who do I call if I want to talk to Europe?--the 27 states of the EU have selected the top two figures of their superstate. Mr. Kissinger can now dial Herman Van Rompuy or Catherine Ashton.
Tony Blair, the ambitious British ex-prime minister, was the first one on the list of candidates for the EU presidency. But Germany and France didn’t want a strong and ambitious politician to be a head of the Union, and thus be the decision-maker. Even as Europe was in the process of ratifying the Lisbon treaty, no one really wanted to lose their national power.
And that is how Belgian Prime Minister Van Rompuy became the first EU president and EU Trade Commissioner Ashton became the new foreign relations chief.
Van Rompuy was a compromise figure during the 2007-2008 Belgian political crisis. Unable to form a government, Belgium...
October 20, 2009The first half of Fall 2009 was a busy season in European politics.
On September 27, the general elections took place in Germany. The results were pretty optimistic--conservatives won the elections and kept the top spot, socialists lost and left the coalition, while liberals became a new member of a ruling coalition. The same weekend, elections took place in Portugal. The results were less optimistic, as the socialists stayed in power and will probably form a coalition with the Left Bloc, another socialist political party. And on October 4, Greece elected a new socialist government.
In the first weekend of October, Ireland voted for the second time on the referendum concerning the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, which would further concentrate political and economic power in Brussels. This time Irish citizens approved ratification, which now makes Czech President Václav Klaus the...
September 30, 2009Is it really easier to work in groups or is it just a way to shift responsibility?
This question is relevant after the recent summit in Pittsburgh, where the G-8 has sort of transformed into the G-20. And even though the G-8 will be still meeting annually as well as the new G-20 format, the world leaders have announced that G-8 is not capable to solve world economic problems alone anymore. Maybe there is a similar reason for Russia to insist on joining the WTO as a union with Belarus and Kazakhstan? It is still not clear why Russia has taken this course of action.
It looks like WTO membership is an Achilles' heel for Russia. And recently, the Russian government appears to be searching for new WTO membership obstacles. In June, Prime Minister Putin declared that entering the WTO for Russia is possible only if it were to enter as a trade union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. He pointed out...
July 29, 2009Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev has signed into law amendments that will bring increased penalties for price collusion and unfair competition. The new amendments will allow the authorities to bring unscrupulous businessmen and bureaucrats to justice. Government officials will be subject to disqualification and sufficiently large fines if they will restrict the movement of goods across the country. Section 178 contains a very harsh sanction - up to six years imprisonment for committing a crime in the area of restriction of competition. This is unprecedented measure for Russia but it is unlikely to work because of corruption among bureaucrats at all levels of government.
July 21, 2009By introducing new regulations the Congress together with major airlines are discouraging us to travel. While the Congress is deciding on how to regulate the size of carry-on luggage and while the airlines are charging us more in taxes than in actual fares, the passengers are still facing a ridiculous policy that a one-way airfare costs several times more than a roundtrip ticket. Weird arithmetic: a trip from one destination to another and back will cost you much less than a flight one way only. Is not that strange that 1+1=2 is less than 1? In fact if you are purchasing a roundtrip the cost of a ticket is up to 10 times cheaper than if you are booking a one-way trip. For example, a roundtrip from New York to Paris would normally cost you around $750. But if you need only 1 segment of this journey you would be asked to pay at least $2000. So booking a roundtrip and using only 1 segment...
July 15, 2009It has been almost 20 years since the end of the Cold War yet the agenda of the U.S.-Russia summit remains unchanged. In the middle of a global economic crisis, the two leaders discussed many important military matters, but neither broached the subject of the economy. Presidents Obama and Medvedev have signed no less than six different documents, none of which addressed economic cooperation and development. No trade agreements or investment initiatives were even discussed.
Unsurprisingly, U.S.-Russia trade relations are much worse than U.S. relations with other, less developed countries. For their next meeting, Presidents Obama and Medvedev should make time to consider worthy economic initiatives like reducing trade barriers and eliminating visas to encourage tourism in both countries. It’s time to change the tone of negotiations and turn our backs on our Cold War past.
July 7, 2009In today's Washington Examiner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran an ad where its President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue warns that the Waxman-Markey climate change bill "would put U.S. businesses at a disadvantage, would violate our international trade obligations and could incite a devastating trade war that would cripple American exporters."
The cap-and-trade system--together with the carbon tariffs and border adjustments suggested in the bill--will be harmful for U.S. businesses, and as Donohue points out, "would not be a good idea in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression."
As CEI Energy Policy Analyst William Yeatman and former CEI Warren Brookes Fellow Jeremy Lott highlighted, the Waxman-Markey bill contains 397 new regulations. The economic cost estimates are...
June 29, 2009So many people declare that they want to “save the world!” A candidate for Miss Universe declared that to be the main purpose of her life, a candidate for the presidency announced that to be his top priority goal after the election, et cetera. Recently, 219 congressmen who voted in favor of the Waxman-Markey energy bill H.R. 2454 on Friday seemed to be driven by the best intentions of making this planet a better place to be as well.
Ambitions to save the world are always dominant for big political figures. However, politicians generally represent their constituents—or at least make an attempt—and their interests locally may be at odds with what is best for the world as a whole.
The Obama administration announced that Waxman-Markey will make the world cleaner and better by reducing pollution and the risk of global warming. But if their intention is to protect the world, then why is the...