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Monday 11/08/2014

I have just finished reading 'Sleepwalkers - How Europe went to war in 1914' by Christopher Clark, Professor of Modern History in Cambridge. He describes the statesmen who stumbled into War in 1914 as “sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the horror they were about to bring to the world”.

A web of interlocking commitments, designed to give individual countries security and peace behind their own borders, ended up tumbling the whole continent into War.

Austro-Hungary had a defensive pact with Germany. Russia set itself up as the protector of Serbia. France gave Russia a blank cheque in the Balkans because it needed Russian assurances against Germany. Britain had a rather more vague understanding with France. It feared any Russian rapprochement with Germany because Russia could threaten British interests in India.

So, when Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo by assassins that had come from Serbia, the possibility that all these dominoes might fall in the direction of war opened up. But it was only a possibility.

Serbia could have taken resolute action to root out the conspiracy behind the assassins before Austria issued any ultimatum. Austria could have issued a more temperate ultimatum. Serbia could have given a less evasive response. Germany could have restrained Austria.

Wednesday 16/07/2014

‘You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills.’ – Jim Rohn

SKILLS EROSION IS A PROBLEM

The real issue of the jobs crisis among young people is not the lack of income but the erosion of skills. Not being in the jobs market, dealing with daily tasks and problems, results in loss of ability to do things. Ultimately, you don’t gain new knowledge or skills and lose competitiveness. Less employers will take you on board as a result.

Staying outside the jobs market is not only detrimental to young people and their future but it is harmful to employers and to the economy as a whole (lower tax contributions and increased social welfare payments). Prior to the crises, many EU member states performed well in the job matching process. Throughout the crises both unemployment rates and job vacancy rates increased.

Monday 30/06/2014

As Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine finalise association and free trade (DCFTA) agreements with Europe today (27 June), these Eastern Partners, together with the EU, are proving that while geography is destiny, history does not have to be so.

The EU’s Eastern Partnership policy is the bridge which connects Europe to countries which were left out of the cycle of peaceful development brought to post-WWII by the European project.

Even as the voice of increased scepticism towards the EU rang loud and clear in the latest European elections, the citizens of these advanced Eastern partners still believe the European project offers them the best way forward.

They have proven ready to pay a heavy price for their European choice, in the knowledge that no sacrifice is too great for the sake of freedom.

The EU and its three Eastern Partners have come to this point against all odds. Russia failed to force these countries, considered to belong to its “privileged sphere of influence,” to give up on Europe in favour of joining the Eurasian Economic Union.

Neither political and economic pressure, nor direct military intervention, have managed to compete with Europe’s soft power.

Thursday 26/06/2014

A spectre is haunting us - the spectre of ‘pikettyism’. Originated in France, it draws its strength from a book by economist Thomas Piketty whose work on the historic trends of capital inequality has bridged the gap between academic research and a mainstream audience. His central finding – that inequality will continue to rise underpinned by a disproportionate concentration of wealth in relatively few capital owners – has particularly delighted the progressive establishment in the US, with Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz throwing all their weight behind Piketty and making his study into the economic sensation it became. The risk now is that socialist governments in Europe will embrace this seemingly new rationale for supporting increased taxation and government intervention in the economy.

Monday 23/06/2014

Arx tarpeia Capitoli proxima: the Tarpeian Rock is close to the Capitol. In politics, triumph and annihilation are never far apart. Following its stunning success in local elections this March, the right-wing UMP had good reason to believe it was the strongest opposition party, even the largest party altogether of French politics. That the FN won eleven town halls, and performed well in those towns where it had candidates was worrying, but meaningless compared to the ‘vague bleue’ (blue wave). Two months later, the FN cruised to victory while François Hollande’s popularity ratings had sunk so low he could be drilling for shale gas and the UMP held back by an invoices scandal and divisions over Europe. We have to add ‘marine’ to the ‘vague bleue’ this time around, a darker shade of blue has triumphed.

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