Advertise On EU-Digest

Annual Advertising Rates


Turkey: U.S. Raises Pressure on Turkey Over Gold Trade With Iran - by Joe Parkinson and Jay Solomon

Washington and Ankara are on a collision course over Turkey's surging sales of gold to Iran, as the U.S. Congress and Treasury focus on cutting off a trade they believe is emerging as one of Tehran's primary conduits to export natural gas and evade Western sanctions.

The Senate on Friday approved a measure that would tighten sanctions against Iran, targeting suppliers of materials that could be used to build ships and taking further aim at the country's port and energy businesses. Among other provisions, the new legislation would ban the transfer of precious metals to Iran, including gold. The sanctions are expected to be approved by the House quickly.

The Senate's move comes after President Barack Obama quietly empowered the Treasury over the summer to sanction any foreign individual or firm that helps Tehran acquire U.S. dollars or precious metals, according to U.S. officials.

Read more: U.S. Raises Pressure on Turkey Over Gold Trade With Iran -

Europe’s challenge is to shake-off inertia before it becomes paralysis - by Richard Youngs

The good news is that European politicians are no longer in denial about the EU’s decline. But Richard Youngs warns that the bad news is that there are no signs of a strategy to reverse that decline.

A refrain that is all too familiar to chroniclers of European integration is that only when external challenges are really serious do EU governments overcome their petty squabbles and unite. Post-war reconciliation created the European Communities; American and Japanese competition drove the Single European Act; the Cold War’s abrupt end gave birth to the Maastricht treaty and, less resolutely, 9/11 and international terrorism prompted a deepening of security co-operation.

Now the EU faces the equally tough challenge of how to respond to its relative decline and the rise of Asia in a ‘post-Western world’. But so far there’s no sign of the spirit of “convergence-in-adversity”.

Or perhaps that’s not entirely fair. European leaders have committed to fashioning “strategic partnerships” with emerging powers, and EU defence ministers have agreed to share defence equipment by cutting out duplication. The EU is courting Asia more assiduously than before as diplomatic rapprochement with rising powers has become de rigeur. The EU has signed an usually far-reaching free trade agreement with South Korea, and trade talks with rising markets have helped return external trade flows to pre-crisis levels. If 2010 had any positive aspects it is that the penny at last dropped that the EU must more systematically confront and mitigate its decline.

Why, then, is Europe so disinclined to look beyond makeshift short-termism? Among the most oft-cited reasons for euro-sluggishness is the contention that this inertia is a result of the EU's institutional design. Its institutional processes undoubtedly need to be improved, and let's hope the Lisbon treaty's reforms start to yield concrete improvements. But institutional re-design will not be a magic wand for a smooth and effective EU foreign policy. Nobody believes that two or three EU governments hold in their hands superbly crafted plans for reacting to Europe's decline but are prevented from implementing by minority blocking votes.

Nor can Europe's policy inertia be attributed to a lack of awareness of how serious its plight has become. This may have been the case three or four years ago, but not now. Until then the very gradual nature of European decline meant that its seriousness had not fully registered, but today ministerial speeches and formal policy documents stress the urgency of an effective and assertive European response. Some Brussels officials may bristle at the hyperbole of declinists, but few still claim the EU is on a glide-path to superpower status. European leaders can no longer be accused of being in denial.

A broader concern is that the EU continues to lack a geostrategic blueprint. Although the EU shouldn't be aiming for an overly-simplistic strategic approach, it needs to engage in deeper thinking that could provide a geopolitical compass for its external policies. Such a geostrategy would need to be eclectic and should contain doses of co-operative realism, mixed with internationalism, the encouragement of transnational linkages and pinches of regionalism. It should also work at steering the U.S. towards a less hegemonic form of multi-lateralism.

American hegemony persists even in a world that is fast becoming more polycentric. The EU must work to remould U.S. power rather than situating itself as a pole equidistant between the U.S. and the rising powers. Eventually a rules-based world order must move from depending on U.S. oversight to enjoying a multiplicity of guarantors. The EU must work with the U.S. in influencing this trajectory, if the international order is to retain some degree of liberal internationalism even as it moves beyond the underwriting of U.S. hegemony.

At a European level, the EU now has little excuse for not moving up a gear. The Union needs to define its interests and mould its policy instruments accordingly, rather than maximising the number of ad hoc policy initiatives almost as an end in itself. There are no simple answers, so the EU will need to avoid both under- and over-reaction, but it needs simultaneously to correct over-ambition and introspection. It certainly is clear that a deepening of the EU's internationally-oriented strategic reflection is urgently needed before inertia mutates into terminal paralysis.

Read more: Article > Europe’s challenge is to shake-off inertia before it becomes paralysis

Global Economy: Labor Unions, governments are not the real enemies - by Antony Orlando

It was one of the deadliest industrial accidents in history. Over 100 people died in that clothing factory.and it  made headline news all across the world. Surely you’ve read about it by now.

When they tried to escape, the factory workers found the doors locked. It was standard practice at the sweatshop. The managers didn’t want the workers to take unauthorized breaks. So they burned alive.

You probably think I’m talking about the garment factory in Bangladesh, where 112 people died last weekend. But I’m not. I’m talking about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village, New York. The date was March 25, 1911. One hundred forty-six people died that day.

New York City wouldn’t experience another disaster of that magnitude for another ninety years. That date would be September 11, 2001.

It’s hard to believe that such an atrocity happened right here in our own backyard. We’ve become so accustomed to workplace regulations and civil negotiations that we’ve forgotten what factory life was like before the Great Depression. Back then, labor unions were even rarer than they are today. Most strikes ended at the barrel of a gun. The company would call the governor, and the state militia would send soldiers to force the strikers back to work. It wouldn’t be uncommon for them to kill and imprison dozens who stood in their way.

It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to see that an individual worker doesn’t stand a chance of a fair negotiation with a $237 billion corporation like Wal-Mart, especially when unemployment is high. The corporation has so many applicants to choose from. It has all the power. It’s that kind of power that allowed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to lock the doors and trap its workers.

That sort of thing doesn’t happen in America anymore, but it’s not because corporations had a change of heart. It’s because the Great Depression motivated Congress to stand behind workers who wish to form labor unions. It’s because the federal government stopped sending soldiers and started sending election supervisors. It’s because they investigated factory conditions and created laws to prevent the loss of innocent life.

This is what our government does. It’s what sets us apart from the destitute places of the world, where good, hard-working people have no protection from the warlords and factory bosses.

In the depths of the Great Depression, Americans watched the Congressional investigation of Wall Street with horror, as the wretched abuses of unregulated banks came to light. The great columnist Walter Lippmann summed up the national mood when he wrote, “No set of men, however honorable they may be, and however good their traditions, can be trusted with so much private power.”
Something to remember when the One Percent refuses to pay the taxes they paid in the booming 1990s, or when they blame the demise of the Twinkie on unions who took pay cuts while executive compensation was soaring.

The 99 Percent isn’t asking for a lot. An hourly wage that doesn’t leave their family in poverty would be nice. A guarantee that Social Security and will still be there when it’s their turn to retire. Maybe also few public schools that aren’t crumbling to the ground.

You know, these are the things that separate us from the Bangladesh’s of the world.

Read more: A Lesson in Power, Courtesy of the Bangladesh Garment Industry – Trading 8s

Fast Food: French mouths water with the return of Burger King to France

Burger King is making a return to France after a 15-year hiatus, in news that has set mouths watering in a country better known for its haute cuisine, fine wine and cheeses.

The US fast food chain’s imminent return after it quit the country in 1997, citing the brand’s poor commercial performance, has been the subject of intense and repeated rumours for years.

And the confirmation on Thursday that the iconic Whopper sandwich was on its way back immediately triggered an avalanche of enthusiasm on the Internet.

By lunchtime on Thursday the hashtag #BurgerKing was “trending” as second most popular on Twitter France.

Read more: French mouths water with the return of Burger King

Shale Gas: Ukraine’s shale gas output to reach 30 bcm in 5–10 yrs

Ukraine will produce 20–30 billion cubic meters of shale gas annually in the next 5–10 years, Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said Friday, as cited by RIA Novosti.  Ukraine is striving to increase its own production of natural and shale gas amid lengthy and fruitless negotiations with Russia over reducing the price of imported gas.

Azarov said that the government has set a task to cut purchases of expensive Russian gas as much as possible and stimulate local energy production.  “We used to buy 50 billion and 40 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia. We have decided to purchase 18 billion–20 billion cubic meters in the short-term. All the remaining volume will be replaced by our own production alongside a set of measures to cut gas consumption,” Azarov said.

He said that Ukraine was ready to consider importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Norway for its future terminal. “We expect that after the completion of the terminal, we will have the possibility to buy about 10 billion cubic meters of liquefied gas at current … spot prices, which are now about 60% lower than the Russian gas price,” Azarov said. “Here, we would cooperate with Norway, too.”
The LNG terminal costs 856 million euros, with 25% to be state-funded and 75% will be provided by private investors. The first stage of the terminal - with an annual capacity of 5 billion cubic meters of LNG - will be launched in 2016.

Read more: Ukraine’s shale gas output to reach 30 bcm in 5–10 yrs

US Economy: Republican Kamikaze tactics could drive economy of fiscal cliff

With little evidence of progress in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations in Washington, President Obama toook his message on the road: The president will travel to a toy manufacturing facility in Hatfield, Pa., where he will make the case that Congress should immediately extend the Bush-era tax cuts on income under $250,000 per year.

Letting the US economy go over the fiscal cliff would push the United States, and probably other countries, into a new crisis that political leaders now say they are determined to avoid.

The fiscal cliff, a combination of mandated tax increases and spending cuts, will occur in January unless President Barack Obama and Democratic and Republican lawmakers forge a long-sought deal.

If they fail, federal government spending for the 2013 fiscal year, which began on October 1, will be slashed by $109 billion.

Tax increases would be broad-based. According to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research center, nearly 90 per cent of Americans would pay more taxes, boosting the country's tax revenues more than 20 per cent above what they would be without the cliff.

Middle-class households would be hit with an almost $2,000 tax increase on average.
Economists fear that the tax hikes, likely to curb consumer spending, combined with sharp cutbacks in federal spending, would drive the world's largest economy back into recession.

The US Federal Reserve has warned for months that it lacks the means to prevent the economy from falling back into a slump. Despite massive support from the central bank, the struggling economy has not yet fully recovered from the Great Recession that ended in June 2009.

According to the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the fiscal cliff would result in the economy shrinking 0.5 per cent in 2013, and the unemployment rate would rise to 9.1 per cent, compared with the 7.9 per cent jobless rate in October.

An economics professor at the University of Maryland, Peter Morici, sees that scenario as too optimistic. Morici said the fiscal cliff could trigger "cataclysmic consequences" for the economy.


German Middle East Policy: 'Germans are going to have to play a larger role'

Germany abstained from the UN General Assembly vote on whether or not to grant the Palestinians observer status. Stephen Szabo, an expert on US-European relations, says Berlin walks a fine diplomatic line. 

Deutsche Welle: Earlier this week, Germany signaled that it would vote against the Palestinian bid for UN observer status. But then Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced that Berlin would abstain. Why would Berlin decide to abstain from this vote?

Stephen Szabo: They don't really agree with what the Israelis have been doing in Gaza. Obviously Germany has a special relationship with Israel, so it has to be careful. But at the same time, I think it's not sympathetic with the American position on this and wants to show they have some independence … without being too critical of Israel.

Read more: 'Germans are going to have to play a larger role' | Germany | DW.DE | 29.11.2012

Italy: The Catholic Church “takes the field”: shops should be closed on Sundays

 “Remember the Sabbath day.” After the definitive liberalization of the businesses’ opening hours, which is contained in the “Salva Italia” decree of the 1st of January 2012, it has become almost impossible for retailers to respect the third commandment.

On this topic, Confesercenti and CEI have launched the campaign “Libera la domenica”, a collection of signatures in order to modify the law on liberalization, which dates back to 2006, and to re-establish the regional trade regulation. Cesare Lorenzini, president of Confesercenti, speaks of “serious problem”. It is such a serious problem that 110 signatures – among which, the Mayor’s, Attilo Fontana - were collected in less than one hour by the vice-delegate Alessandro Milani last Sunday on the porch of the Basilica of San Vittore.

Varese is certainly a town of shopkeepers, but considering the campaign’s first results, it respects the religious holidays. Gianni Lucchina, director of Confesercenti explains, “the figures show that the liberalization of Sunday opening hours is wrong. 85,000 small-sized businesses in Italy are risking to close down. Only large retailers have profited from it, and, without rules, the freedom of competition does not protect competition itself.”

The current law does not force shops to stay open on Sundays, but small retailers somehow had to accept the challenge in order to respond to the “attack” of large retailers, who can count on more considerable troops that guarantee the personnel’s turn-over. The figures declared the failure of Sunday openings: retailers’ sales have decreased by 8.6% since 2008, the GDP has decreased by 2.4% and unemployment has raised by 10%.

Lucchina adds, “in Germany, the GDP grows by 3%, but shops are closed on Sundays.” Italy, among the powerful countries of the Old Continent, is the only country that has the total liberalization of trading hours, that is to say 24h, whereas in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands shops stay closed. Sweden allows a 5-24 opening, Austria a 6-18 opening, whereas in the UK it depends on whether the shop has a floor area of more or less than 280 square metres. 

The Episcopal Vicar, Monsignor Franco Agnesi, who is used to working on Sundays, starts from the campaign’s slogan “Always open on Sunday? How about no” and thinks about a topic that goes beyond the crisis and the surrounding difficulties. Agnesi says, “this campaign is not meant to be confessional, because it concerns everybody’s dignity and reactions: during a holiday, people can relax and their relations will be in the name of generosity. The topic of gifts and generosity, which is present in the encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, “Caritas in veritate”, is not something that comes after work, but it is inside economy itself, it is a change factor.” Confesercenti’s objective is to collect at least three thousand signatures in the province of Varese, and to involve trade unions and trade confederations.

Read more: Varese - The Catholic Church “takes the field”: shops should be closed on Sundays | In English | Varese News

Egyptians jumping from the frying pan into the fire as Islamists redesign Egypt's draft constitution

President Mohamed Mursi
Egypt's hastily-adopted draft constitution has widened splits between Islamists and opponents alarmed by the contents of a document meant to enshrine a transition from autocracy in the most populous Arab nation.

The constitution, which will go to a referendum after President Mohamed Mursi approves it, defines the president's powers and limits him to two terms, while adding flavors to the taste of the Islamists who dominated the drafting process.

Liberals, Christians and others who had already quit the drafting assembly said the document pushed through on Friday would further polarize a nation in turmoil since an uprising ended President Hosni Mubarack's  30-year rule 21 months ago.

Mursi is pushing for swift action on the constitution to try to defuse opposition to a decree he issued last week temporarily giving himself as the opposition says powers that exceed those enjoyed by Mubarak.


U.K. Media Ethics Report: Britain Needs Independent Press Regulator

A senior British judge concluded Thursday that the country needs a new, independent media regulator to eliminate a subculture of unethical behavior that infected segments of the country’s press.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson says a new regulatory body should be established in law to prevent more people from being hurt by “press behavior that, at times, can only be described as outrageous.”
Leveson reported at the end of a yearlong ethics inquiry triggered by revelations of tabloid phone hacking. His proposals will likely be welcomed by victims of press intrusion and some politicians who want to see the country’s voracious reined in. But some editors and lawmakers fear any new regulator could curtail freedom of the press.

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry after revelations of illegal eavesdropping by Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid sparked a criminal investigation and a wave of public revulsion.

Leveson criticized the cozy relationship between politicians, police and the press, but he insisted in his 2,000-page report that politicians and the government should play no role in regulating the press.
Parliament would have to approve any legal changes the report recommends, and Cameron is under intense pressure from both sides. He is also tainted by his own ties to prominent figures in the scandal.

Read more: U.K. Media Ethics Report: Britain Needs Independent Press Regulator |

Britain: U.S. bans BP from new government contracts after oil spill deal

The U.S. government banned BP Plc on Wednesday from new federal contracts over its "lack of integrity" in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, possibly imperiling the company's role as a top U.S. offshore oil and gas producer and the No. 1 military fuel supplier.

The suspension, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, comes on the heels of BP's November 15 agreement with the U.S. government to plead guilty to criminal misconduct in the Gulf of disaster, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The British energy giant agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties, including a record $1.256 billion criminal fine.

BP and its affiliates are barred from new federal contracts until they demonstrate they can meet federal standards, the EPA said. The suspension is "standard practice" and BP's existing U.S. government contracts are not affected, it said.

Note EU-Digest: obviously what would be interesting to know is what the existing
U.S. government contracts are which are not affected ?

 Read more: U.S. bans BP from new government contracts after oil spill deal | Reuters


China Fuels Illegal Trade in Timber, Report Finds - by Andrew Jacobs

China's growing appetite for rosewood dining sets, hardwood floors, plywood and printer paper is helping propel a booming trade in illegally harvested timber and spurring the destruction of fragile ecosystems across the globe, a British environmental organization said in a report released on Thursday.

The organization, the Environmental Investigation Agency, said the Chinese government has largely turned a blind eye as wood importers and furniture makers, some of them state-owned enterprises, have profited from a $4 billion industry that harvests wood illegally from Myanmar, Mozambique, Indonesia and other countries with weak law enforcement and widespread corruption. 

“Illegal logging and the trade in stolen timber are among the most destructive environmental crimes occurring today and directly threaten the world’s vital forests,” the report said.

Read more: China Fuels Illegal Trade in Timber, Report Finds -

Palestine upgraded to UN nonvoting observer status following General Assembly vote

Just nine nations voted against the Palestinian Authority's upgrade to nonvoting observer state status, which passed the General Assembly 138-9, with 41 abstentions.

Voting "no" Thursday were Israel, the United States and Canada, joined by the Czech Republic, Panama and several Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. The Pacific nations typically support the U.S. and Israel at the U.N. on key General Assembly resolutions.

The historic vote recognizes Palestine as a state and gives Palestine the right to join U.N. agencies. It opens the door for Palestine to become a party to the International Criminal Court, allowing them to bring cases against Israel.

Israel and the U.S. argued that the vote is purely symbolic, would change nothing on the ground, would hurt peace talks and could affect U.S. funding.

Most European countries sided with the Palestinians in this historic vote except the Czech Republic.


Greenland looks to Denmark for rare earth mineral investment

Greenland’s top politician has encouraged Copenhagen to invest in his country ahead of an imminent boom in developing local mineral resources.

Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist made his appeal in the Copenhagen-based Politiken newspaper, saying it would be a shame for Denmark to lose out on investing in the country’s promising mineral industry considering its history and close relationship with Greenland.

Kleist wrote, “The alliance between Denmark and Greenland has been incredibly beneficial for both. Isn’t it about time that we, after 300 years of history openly declare the love and mutual esteem we have for one another?”

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has since responded positively. She told Politiken, “If the Self-Rule administration wants to strengthen the co-operation between Denmark and Greenland in the resources field, the government is naturally open to discuss it.”

The news comes following in-depth negotiations between Nuuk and Chinese investors, who pledged DKK 12 billion (EUR 1.6 billion) toward developing the Greenland’s mineral industry.

Greenland is thought to contain one of the planet’s largest deposits of valuable rare earth minerals outside of China. Rare earth minerals are a key ingredient in the production of electronics and numerous other consumer goods.

Read more: Greenland looks to Denmark for mineral investment | IceNews - Daily News

Pan-European Transport Corridor: Danube fare fight for bridge tolls sends Romania, Bulgaria to court

Plans for a bridge across the Danube have been in the works for decades. In 1994, the EU agreed to develop the so-called Pan-European Transport Corridor IV. The route connects several major eastern European cities, from Dresden to Prague, Bratislava, Budapest and Sofia all the way to Istanbul. Even then, Romania, which opted for a more easterly location, and Bulgaria were locked in a bitter dispute about where exactly to build a new bridge. Construction was finally begun under EU pressure in 2004, between Calafat and Vidin, a town of 50,000 inhabitants.

The bridge was originally scheduled to be finished before 2010 - but there was a delay due to geological characteristics that made a new structural analysis necessary. The official opening was set for Thursday, (29.11.2012), but it's been postponed once more.

Construction of the bridge is essentially finished. A few weeks ago the last 18-meter-long segment on the Romanian side was fit in. Pedestrians could cross the imposing, two-kilometer structure - in theory. Access roads are not quite done and border control posts have yet to be established. Julio Ruis, deputy construction manager, dampened expectations the bridge might open soon after all.

The way things are now, truck drivers will still  have to take the ferry for a while longer - just as they have these past two decades.

In the meantime, there is more political bickering on the horizon: Romania and Bulgaria want to take each other to court over how to share revenue and bridge tolls.

Read more: Danube fare fight sends Romania, Bulgaria to court | Europe | DW.DE | 29.11.2012

US Economy: Temporary fiscal cliff fix only postpones clarity

Richard Fisher, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, tells DW why he still believes in a unified Europe and why a temporary fix of the fiscal cliff problem in the US isn’t good enough.
DW: Your remark that so called Too-big-to Fail banks should be broken up isn't very popular in financial circles. Do you really believe that this can be put into practice?

Richard Fisher: I do. And I am referencing in particular the financial situation in the United States. We have five institutions that have become even more concentrated in their power than they were before the crisis. And the intention of the legislation we passed, called the Dodd-Frank Act (law on Wall Street reform -the ed.), was to end "too big to fail". Instead the consequence has ensued: the largest banks have become even bigger - "too bigger to fail."

We have as you have in Europe over 6,000 banks, but we have excessive concentration in the hands of a few. It's the least worst outcome to say break up the banks. We provide a taxpayer guarantee on deposits. But starting with a very clever man named Sandy Weill at Citicorp, who took that franchise and was able to expand it through the acquisition of Travelers Insurance and so on, basically transformed it into what banks have become now which is an income-oriented and not a balance sheet oriented institution. That means how do I make as much as possible, taking advantage of the cheap money that was made available subsidized by the American taxpayer deposits.

But what I argue is: The only guarantees that exist are those of deposits. Any other activity beyond what we used to consider the commercial banking functions - safeguarding deposits by the American taxpayers that are at risk - will not be assisted by the government. I think by just making that clear alone we'll assist the process.

For the complete interview click here: Temporary fiscal cliff fix only postpones clarity | Transatlantic Voices | DW.DE | 29.11.2012

Russia wants to feed Europe with organic food

Russia seriously considers an opportunity to take up the role of a supplier of organic products within the scope of the World Trade Organization. Russian lawmakers are working on the bill to support the production of organic agricultural products. This law will help Russian farmers enter the EU market with organic products.

As expected, the bill will be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia in December of this year. The law may come into force in 2015.

Organic farmers promised to reduce the cost on their products and use Russia's participation in the WTO to enter the EU market with organic agricultural products. The authors of the new document have provided the following forms of state support: a system of certification of environmentally friendly products, special credits, subsidies, insurance against crop failure and disease and the support of consumer agricultural cooperation. Small and medium-sized businesses that provide services to producers of organic products will also receive assistance from the state.

Read more: Russia wants to feed Europe with organic food - English

Gulf cools towards Muslim Brothers - Alain Gresh

Dubai’s chief of police, General Dahi Khalfan al-Tamim, claims that the Muslim Brotherhood is “a small group that has strayed from the true path.” He also says that the revolution in Egypt “would not have been possible without Iran’s support and is the prelude to a new Sykes-Picot agreement” (1). And that Mohammed Morsi’s election in Egypt was “an unfortunate choice.” Like many leading figures in the Arab world, Al-Tamin uses Twitter, where he has said: “If the Muslim Brotherhood threatens the Gulf’s security, the blood that flows will drown it.”

Throughout this summer, Al-Tamin criticised the Brotherhood, which he calls “a sinful gang whose demise is drawing near”, and called for their assets and bank accounts to be frozen (2). The authorities in the UAE, of which Dubai is a part, have brought around 60 of the Brothers to court, charged with plotting against the regime.

The pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat belongs to Saudi crown prince Salman’s family. Despite its reputation in the West, it has almost no autonomy in matters of Arab politics. The day after Mohammed Morsi’s swearing-in on 30 June, its editor, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, asked some questions (really those of the Al-Saud family) (3). Would Egypt’s new head of state fight terrorism and oppose Al-Qaida? Would he continue Egypt’s mediating role over Palestine? Would he genuinely support the Syrian opposition, given his opposition to any foreign military intervention? Would he back Jordan’s king Abdullah against the challenge from the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood?

Al-Rashed wrote: “As Iran has long been a strong ally of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, will the new president decide to resume relations with Tehran under the pretext that Iran has embassies and ambassadors in the Gulf states?... Will he remain silent about Iran’s ideological and religious activities that have intensified ever since the ousting of Mubarak, as seen in Tehran’s support for local groups and attempts to spread Shia ideology among some Egyptian circles? This is something Al-Azhar [Sunni Islam’s leading institution based in Cairo] has already criticised, warning that Egypt could be threatened with sectarian conflict.”

These warnings, and many others in the Gulf press, have attracted little attention in the West, perhaps because they run counter to the prevailing view: that there is a broad alliance uniting the emirs of the Gulf and the Islamist movements in their wish to impose strict religious order and sharia, as though a shared conservative vision of Islam supersedes political considerations and diplomatic rivalries, national differences and divergent strategies.

Read more: Gulf cools towards Muslim Brothers - Le Monde diplomatique - English edition

Market Economy: Review of Michael J. Sandel's "What Money Can't Buy": The Moral Limit of Markets :by Deirdre McCloskey

Michael Sandel of Harvard teaches Government and, especially, justice, for which he is internationally known. His book is sweetly written, and offers a good occasion to examine the moral convictions of communitarians, and their distaste for the market.

One cannot but agree with Sandel that the study of markets should be remoralized. We should know why we believe, morally speaking, that bread should be allocated by a market but children should not. It's not enough to simply sneer, from left or right or middle. Even economists need to do the philosophical work. "Markets are not mere mechanisms," Sandel wisely observes.

By international standards the US poverty line of $23,050 corrected for exchange rates is around the average of world income, and is deemed a comfortably middle-class income in India. Why does the fact matter? Sandel says it is because Americans ignore the desperation of people earning $1 a day in Chad, and attend instead to the "unfairness" of charging for Shakespeare tickets of a show in Central Park.

It is a moral failure of communitarianism that it weighs on New Yorkers or Anglinos, our community, so much more above other poor people in the world, ignoring the good for Chadians or Bangladeshis that a commercial and innovative society would do. Sandel does not note that the introduction of free markets in Sahil-grown cotton (as against European and American protection for "our" farmers) or the reception of the First World's garbage (as Lawrence Summers once suggested in vulgar but sound reasoning) would ameliorate a most terrible lack of affordability. That is, Sandel does not face the actual, moral problem—which is poverty, real poverty, the depths. Instead he recommends that we fiddle with prices and create queues for Shakespeare in the Park.

The indirection—fiddling instead of solving—is morally indefensible. Fifty years ago the economists Milton Friedman on the right and James Tobin on the left suggested that we give at least the American poor a minimum income, and stop fiddling with the prices of housing and of bread and the like. It's a good moral idea, which the French have implemented. Poverty (at least State-side) would be alleviated, and markets would be left to do their job of making the social pie as large as possible. Such a separation of a policy about income from a policy about the market is a standard analytic ploy in economics. Sandel's teacher did not get it across to him.

In high theory the separation of welfare from allocation is called the Hicks-Kaldor Criterion, and is, to put it mildly, not above moral criticism. But to stride past the economic analysis is to ignore the actual moral problem—poverty—and its most direct solution. A New Yorker cartoon back in the 1960s showed a parked bank truck, with the guards handing money to people out of big sacks. Said one onlooker to another, "Well, at last the War on Poverty has gotten under way!" Yes. The comparable policy for the $1-a-day wretched of the earth is to allow capitalism to rip, which is what China has been doing since 1978 and India since 1991, with vastly more gain to the poor than from communitarian policies.

Note EU-Digest: extreme and opposite political and economic philosophies somewhat evenly divided in a country like the US is a recipe for disaster without the willingness to compromise. 

Read more at Deirdre McCloskey: editorials

Aircraft Industry: Airbus Ads Jab Boeing With Pinocchio Nose

Airbus A350
Airbus SAS accused Boeing Co. (BA) of making misleading claims about its planes’ performance and ridiculed its competitor with an advertising campaign showing a Boeing jet nose grotesquely elongated to resemble Pinocchio’s.

The ad, which appears this week in trade publications including Aviation Week and Flight, asserts that Boeing is “stretching the truth” in its own campaign to promote its aircraft. Boeing said it stands by its performance claims.

“They crossed a line when they started running specific numbers,” Airbus’s sales chief, John Leahy, said yesterday in an interview. “They’ve blatantly misrepresented the facts.”

Read more: Airbus Ads Jab Boeing With Pinocchio Nose - Bloomberg


Canadians value more vacation over pay hikes survey shows

An international report Wednesday found that Canadian workers would rather get an additional week's paid vacation than be paid more to do their jobs.

The Mercer consultancy report says 20 per cent of Canadians polled said the job perk they would most like to receive from employers is another week's worth of paid vacation.

Canadians were the only country in the survey — which included workers from the U.S., Britain, France, China and Brazil — who said they valued time off over more money.

Read more: Canadians value more vacation over pay hikes - Business - CBC News

Middle East: Israeli "failure" UN part of ongoing political oversight says Tzipi Livni

Israel's expected "failure" at the UN General Assembly on Thursday is the result of ongoing political oversight, The Tzipi Livni Party leader Tzipi Livni said Wednesday, ahead of the Palestinian bid for a status upgrade.

"When Israel does not instigate and lead initiatives, initiatives are forced upon it," she said.

Engaging in a political process with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, and striving for an agreement is our interest, that would preserve Israel as a Zionist, Jewish and democratic state, she continued.

"Within two weeks, the world will recognize - because of the failures of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government - a Hamas state in Gaza, and a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders," she added.  

Read more: Jerusalem Post - Breaking News

Netherlands Economy - Seven in 10 older unemployed are jobless for at least a year

In the Netherlands seven out of 10 people aged 55 and over who lose their jobs are unemployed for at least a year, according to job centre figures.

This number of older jobless has gone up by 20% during the past year and now stands at over 81,000.
And while 30% of them will find new work within a year, half of those jobs are only temporary, the job centre figures show.

The government is planning to reduce unemployment benefit entitlement to a maximum of one year, after which jobless people will have to claim welfare or use their savings.

The new administration is also planning to reform redundancy law which unions fear will encourage companies to let go their older workers.

Read more: - Seven in 10 older unemployed are jobless for at least a year

Belgium: OECD revises economic outlook for Belgium

The OECD's latest outlook for Belgium puts forward a negative growth of -0.1 percent this year, and a modest growth of 0.5 percent next year. Other organisations have different figures. The European Commission thinks the Belgian economy will shrink 0.2 percent this year, but grow 0.7 percent in 2013.

When drawing up the budget for next year, key ministers counted on a 0.7 percent growth. If this figure is down, Belgium will have to make more cuts.

Read more: OECD has revised economic outlook for Belgium

Serbia: Russia officially approved favorable economic loan to Serbia

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin confirmed to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic that Russia officially approved a favorable loan to Serbia. Nikolic informed Rogozin that Serbia is very interested in cooperation with the Russian Federation in many areas, and that the South Stream project would soon bring the two countries very close.

Nikolic expressed a wish to advance Serbian-Russian cooperation in other economic fields beyond the energy sector. Among other things, Serbia is prepared to secure huge quantities of agricultural products for the Russian market, said Nikolic. He reminded that Serbia has a policy of military neutrality and therefore it would soon send a parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization as it already has its representatives in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Rogozin described relations between the two countries as very friendly and used the opportunity to relay greetings from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.


Spain: Gibraltar waters dispute provokes diplomatic incident. between Spain and Britain

The conflict over the waters surrounding Gibraltar flared up again at the end of last week as the British and Spanish governments called in the respective ambassadors to make diplomatic protests in the light of recent incidents.

The British Foreign Office expressed its concerns to Spanish ambassador Federico Trillo at “provocative incursions” into “British Gibraltar Territorial Waters” on Tuesday last week, first by a Spanish naval ship and later by a Spanish customs vessel that “sought to apprehend a Gibraltarian civilian boat forcing the Royal Gibraltar Police to intervene”.

In turn the Spanish government summoned the British ambassador in Madrid to pass on its position regarding the conflict. An embassy official attended the meeting, in the absence of Ambassador Giles Paxman. The Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo made it clear that Spanish fishermen would “continue to fish in waters surrounding Gibraltar, where they have always fished, under the protection of the Guardia Civil”.

Spain does not recognise British sovereignty over the waters in question on the grounds that they were not mentioned in the Utrecht Treaty of 1713 when the Rock was ceded to the British Crown.

Read more: Gibraltar waters dispute provokes diplomatic incident.

Transportation Industry: Florida marine transportation company opening trade routes to European Ports

Yacht Transportation, a company specialized in boat shipping and yacht shipping announced today that it will open up its trade routes and voyages to various ports in Europe. Some of these ports include Southampton, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Bremerhaven, and Hamburg. This service addition comes as a direct result of client interest in these areas of the world.

Although Yacht Transportation is one of the newer yacht transport companies in the industry, they have already proven that they are just as capable as the existing competition. In just a short period of time, they have already opened up their trade routes to include most of the most popular cruising destination ports such as the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and now in Europe. As time goes on, they are expected to continue to open up more routes and eventually have the capability to provide boat transport and yacht transport services worldwide.

Yacht Transportation is an up and coming marine transportation company that provides deluxe boat shipping and yacht shipping services as well as a vast array of logistics services. Some other services the company provides in addition to the marine transport of your boat or yacht are storage and warehousing and inland trailer transportation, just to name a few.

France, Spain to support Palestinian UN status bid, hesitation from Britain

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday that France will vote in favor of the Palestinian Authority's bid for Palestine to be granted UN "non-member observer status" at the General Assembly later this week.

France said on Tuesday it would vote in favour of Palestinian "non-member observer" status at the United Nations, boosting Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the country's National Assembly that Paris would vote "yes" in this week’s vote on a call for "non-member observer state status" for the Palestinians. Even with non-member status, however, a Palestinian state would still not be a full member of the UN General Assembly.  Fabius told MPs, "We've known for years France's constant position is to recognise the Palestinian state.”

Spain’s foreign minister says Spain will vote in favor of recognition of a Palestinian state at the U.N. General Assembly this week. Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo told parliament Wednesday that Spain would support the Palestinian bid at the U.N. because it feels it is the best way to advance toward peace.

Hesitation is coming from the United Kingdom ahead of the vote, says FRANCE 24’s US correspondent Nathan King, reporting from the UN Headquarters. “They are saying maybe they would vote but they have some conditions. They’re worried about certain Palestinian positions.”

Read more: France to support Palestinian UN status bid - PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES - FRANCE 24


Turkey: Is there a comeback for Kurdish militant leader on the horizon ?

Abdullah Ocalan
Snatched by Turkish commandos in Nairobi, Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan looked resigned and bewildered as he was flown back to Ankara, the gallows beckoning. A decade later, on his island prison, he appears to have the ear of a Turkish government eager to end a devastating conflict.

It seems an unlikely comeback. Reviled in most of Turkey but commanding fierce loyalty from Kurdish nationalists, Ocalan has been held in virtual isolation on the barren island of Imrali, 50 km (30 miles) south of Istanbul, since his capture in 1999.  Even his lawyers haven't seen him for 15 months.

But after the bloodiest summer for years in Turkey's conflict with Kurdish militants, and with fears over the spread of Kurdish insurrection in neighboring Syria, Ocalan is emerging from the virtual oblivion of Imrali.

When hundreds of Kurdish militants on hunger strike in jails across Turkey drew close to death this month, Turkish authorities turned to the man reviled by newspapers after his capture as "Butcher" and "Baby Killer".

A message through his brother to call off the strike was immediately obeyed, an apparent sign of the authority generally supposed to have drifted from the man, known by allies as "Apo", over his years on Imrali.

"He proved that he is still the boss, that he has the last word," said Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, who met Ocalan twice in Lebanon and Syria in the 1980s.

"He is not a fighter or a guerrilla war expert, he is more the thinking man trying to shape the Kurdish problem. He wants to be the leader of all Kurds, that is the image he gives."

Turkish MIT intelligence officials took the ferry to Imrali at least three times over the past two months and their talks with Ocalan paved the way for his appeal, according to the liberal daily Radikal, which did not identify its sources.

Few men stir such hatred in Turkey as Ocalan, who founded the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group and led the armed struggle for Kurdish home rule for 15 years before his capture, a conflict which burns at the heart of the country.  Many hold him responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people since the PKK - designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union - took up arms in 1984.

Erdogan, who publicly refused to negotiate with the hunger strikers and dismissed their protest as blackmail supported by "merchants of death", said no promises had been made to Ocalan in exchange for his intervention.

"There was no such thing," he told reporters on the way back from a trip to Egypt last week.
But the government has also suggested more talks between the intelligence agencies and the PKK were a possibility.

"This is Ocalan's second comeback," said Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Istanbul's Bosphorus University who also writes for the Radikal.

Read more: Kurdish militant leader wields influence from island prison - Yahoo! News

Russia: Official sees high risks of slower econ growth in Russia early ‘13

Risks of slower economic growth will remain high in Russia at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Deputy Economic Development Minister Andrei Klepach said on Tuesday.

“A more urgent problem now is the problem of economic growth,” Klepach said when asked about the balance between risks of economic slowdown and inflation.

He also said that a reduction of the refinancing rate by the central bank will not significantly spur growth. In early November, the Central Bank of Russia kept the refinancing rate unchanged at 8.25%.
Inflation risks will also remain in the beginning of 2013. “But so far they are under control (and will remain so) if there is no further growth in world food prices,” Klepach.

For more: Russia: Official sees high risks of slower econ growth in Russia early ‘13

Eurozone: France must face up to reforms

Whether you ask the IMF, OECD, the European Commission or the German government, they're unanimous that France must undertake economic reforms. Is it the next country in the euro zone teetering at the edge?

Rating agency Moody's was the latest to send out a warning. It revoked its top credit rating for France and lowered its forecast to "negative." But the financial markets remained unfazed. "First of all, many countries have lost their triple-A rating. Even the United States no longer has it, and can still refinance itself," said Jörg Krämer, chief economist at Commerzbank. In addition, he noted, the European Central Bank is there to do absolutely everything necessary to keep the euro zone together. "That explains why investors aren't worried," Krämer told Deutsche Welle.

Until now, France - like Germany - has been one of the winners in the euro-zone crisis, and can borrow money at historically low interest rates. Still, said Claire Demesmay, of the German Council on Foreign Relations, the Moody downgrade is a clear signal "that Francois Hollande has his back up against the wall and has no choice but to bring on reforms in the country."

Read more: France must face up to reforms | Europe | DW.DE | 27.11.2012

Greece: German parliament to decide Thursday on Greek bailout

The German parliament will vote on Thursday whether to approve the next Greek tranche and the debt-reducing tools agreed Monday night by eurozone finance ministers. The opposition has signaled it will vote in favor, but is sceptical that these measures will work without governments taking losses.

Read more: / News In Brief / German parliament to decide Thursday on Greek bailout

Syrian-Armenian Filmmaker Released

Filmmaker Avo Kaprealian, who  was detained by Syrian authorities, has been released, according to the Facebook page set up by his friends.

Kaprealian was last seen with two of his colleagues with a camera in a public park in Aleppo. He was working on a new film about the humanitarian crisis caused by the Syrian conflict.

Avo Kaprealian was born in Aleppo in 1985. He studied at the Haigazian Armenian Elementary School, then at the Karen Jeppe Armenian College. He graduated from the University of Damascus with a degree in theater and cinema, and worked in various film productions there for a few years before moving back to Aleppo and teaching art and theater at the Akkad Institute. He managed the first public cinema club in the city with a group of friends, and was recognized as one of the most notable filmmakers in the new wave of young artists in Syria.

Read more: Syrian-Armenian Filmmaker Released | Armenian Weekly

Technology Employment: App economy’ is sizzling with potential - Rob Hotakainen and Nancy Dahlberg

Raymond Gonzalez, a Florida International University senior, is developing an iPhone application called Pet Finder that will allow users to browse the dogs and cats at the local animal shelter or request an animal for adoption. He is also part of a team creating mobile apps that track bank failures, issue alerts about earthquakes and organize homework assignments.

It’s a well-calculated effort to learn as much as he can about mobile technology as quickly as possible. “My goal is to make all these apps free and open source while using the knowledge gained to build my startup company after graduation,” said Gonzalez, who is majoring in information technology.

Whether he starts his own company or works for someone else, Gonzalez is preparing to be a player in a high-paying, sizzling new industry, one that might provide the United States with a big opportunity to increase its exports in coming years.

While the overall economy still lags, the “app economy” has created nearly 500,000 jobs in the United States since 2007, when there were none.

Companies in the US even worry that the nation isn’t moving fast enough to produce new talent for thousands of unfilled jobs as consumers demand more and more gizmos and gadgets for their smartphones.

Mobile apps developers can expect pay increases of 9 percent next year, among the highest of any jobs, putting them in the range of $92,750 to $133,500 a year, according to a survey that the staffing and consulting firm Robert Half International released last month.

If the United States can maintain its dominance in the industry, many say the app economy could make a big dent in the country’s federal trade deficit. Last year, for example, more than 20 percent of the apps downloaded in China were made by U.S. developers.

Note EU-Digest: Starting today through November 29, in Prague, the Czech Republic  - "the Future of Web Apps" conference.

Read more: ‘App economy’ is sizzling with potential - Technology -

Syria Renews Border Attacks as NATO Seeks Missile Sites

Syrian warplanes attacked targets close to the Turkish border for the second consecutive day as North Atlantic Treaty Organization officers arrived to select missile sites to counter President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. 

U.S., Dutch and German officers representing the three NATO countries with Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries visited Turkish provinces near the Syrian border today, authorities said. As work began, Assad’s jets struck the town of Harim, the state-run Anatolia news agency said. That followed yesterday’s bombing of a Turkish-sponsored refugee camp near the Syrian town of Atma that sent thousands of people streaming toward the frontier.

Russia renewed its opposition to NATO’s involvement today, with Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Denisov telling a Berlin press conference “we don’t like this plan.” The alliance’s aims were unclear: “Who’s threatened? Where’s the threat coming from?” he said. Iran has also opposed the move.

Read more: Syria Renews Border Attacks as NATO Seeks Missile Sites - Businessweek

Court rules Europe rescue fund within law - by Jamie Smyth

Europe’s new permanent rescue fund does not violate EU law and there is nothing to stop member states implementing the treaty, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

The ruling on Tuesday by Europe’s highest court removes a legal threat hanging over the European Stability Mechanism, a €500bn bailout fund created to provide assistance to members of the eurozone in financial difficulty.

“The court holds that its examination has disclosed nothing capable of affecting the validity of decision 2011/199 [to set up the fund],” said the court in its first judgment on the fund.

The ruling, which is likely to set a legal precedent for other legal challenges to the ESM, dismissed a challenge made by Thomas Pringle, a leftwing Irish parliamentarian.

Mr Pringle claimed the ESM unlawfully breaches provisions of the EU treaties concerning economic and monetary policy.

Read more: Court rules Europe rescue fund within law -


Global Economy: "Call it as it is" - by Rebecca Solnit

Now is the time to see that most of our problems are the result of the insatiable greed of the very few. And to say so, clearly and repeatedly. It’s the only way to start changing towards reality.

We often speak as though the source of our problems is complex and even mysterious. I’m not sure it is. You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.

Calling lies “lies” and theft “theft” and violence “violence”, loudly, clearly and consistently, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage. What protects an outrage are circumlocutions, and euphemisms. Change the language and you’ve begun to change the reality or at least to open the status quo to question. Here is Confucius on the rectification of names: “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion.”

So let’s start calling manifestations of greed by their true name. By greed, I mean the attempt of those who have plenty to get more. Look at the Waltons of Wal-Mart: the four main heirs are among the dozen richest people on the planet, each holding about $24bn. Their wealth is equivalent to that of the bottom 40% of Americans. The corporation Sam Walton founded now employs 2.2 million workers, and the great majority are poorly paid people who routinely depend on government benefits to survive. You could call that Walton Family welfare — a taxpayers’ subsidy to their system. Strikes against Wal-Mart this year protested barbarous working conditions: warehouses that reach 120 degrees, a woman eight months pregnant forced to work at a brutal pace, exposure to pollutants, and the intimidation of those who attempt to organise or unionise.

Read more: Call it as it is - Le Monde diplomatique - English edition

Turkey: Russia warns, Turkish firms avoid crisis-hit EU

Moscow is nervously watching the economic crisis unfolding in the European Union, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday, ahead of a working visit to France, adding he felt the crisis represented a serious threat to Russia’s own economic performance.

Medvedev’s harsh wording was not limited to economic woes, as he also hit hard at France’s stand on the Syrian rebels.

Medvedev complained to Agence France-Presse in a joint interview with Le Figaro yesterday that EU leaders sometimes lack the “energy and will” to solve their problems amid squabbles over whether to back austerity or growth. “We see this as a very serious threat,” said Medvedev.

This came simultaneously with the eurozone finance ministers’ meeting for the third time in two weeks on immediate funding to avert a threat of bankruptcy for Greece and to deal with the country’s ever-growing mountain of debt. Greece has been waiting since June for a loan installment of 31.2 billion euros ($40 billion) to avoid running out of money sometime around the end of the year. However, no result came out of the meeting before the Daily News went to print yesterday evening.

“We are, to a large extent, dependent on what happens in the economies of the EU,” Medvedev said. The EU states account for half of Russia’s trade volume while Moscow holds some 41 percent of its foreign currency reserves in euros.

Read more: ECONOMICS - Russia warns, Turkish firms avoid crisis-hit EU

Russia: Michael McFaul: U.S. wants to further relations with Russia, but "it takes two to tango"

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul gave his first interview to correspondents of Interfax Olga Golovanova and Kseniya Baygarova after the U.S. presidential elections‘ 2012 on vital bilateral issues in U.S.-Russian relations and regional agenda, such as Iran and Afghanistan.

Question: Mr. McFaul, you are an author of ‘reset’. Everybody knows a lot of people in Russia and sometimes in America are a little bit disappointed of ‘perezagruzka’. Do you share this view? Are you disappointed too and will new Obama‘s administration continue the policy of ‘reset’ in our relations?

Answer: Well, from our perspective ‘perezagruzka’ was always about engaging with the Russian government and Russian society to achieve our concrete national interests. We assumed that the Russian government would do the same with us and would never cooperate on an issue unless they thought that it was in their national interests as well. This is a concept that President Obama talks of as win-win outcomes. The only way one can realize win-win outcomes is to have an understanding of each others‘ interests, of each others‘ motivations. And the only way you can facilitate that understanding is to engage. Sometimes it is not well understood that it is not an end in itself. It is a means to these other outcomes. So President Obama - they are not here anymore, there is me playing football with Obama - we used to have photos in here of the various meetings he has had with President Medvedev, Prime Minister Putin, now President Putin. They met last in Mexico, in Los Cabos. I was at that meeting. He is engaged much of his personal time into trying to foster this understanding, so that we could get the outcomes. He created with President Medvedev the bilateral presidential commission again to help increase connections, activities between our two governments. We think that the results have been very positive: the new START Treaty, cooperation on what we call the northern distribution network for supplies to our troops in Afghanistan; Russia is a key partner to us in that process. We think our cooperation on Iran and North Korea has been very robust at the UN Security Council. With respect to Iran both in negotiations but also on sanctions on Security Council [Resolution] #1929. Most recently - I don‘t want to go into everything - the WTO accession for Russia. We worked very closely with the Russian government to make that happen. Concrete outcomes. I think it is fair to say when I hear the critics that we‘ve done less big things in this last year, in 2012, so that the momentum has slowed down. I would say that there are two reasons for that. One is that we‘ve got a lot done, so the things that are left are harder issues. So we‘ve got these other things done. Now on to these other issues. Two, I would say that both your government was focused on domestic issues and election issues here. And so was my president:2012 was an election year. Therefore the president did not devote as much time to foreign policy issues. But now we have a new moment, we‘ll soon have a new administration, and we‘ll now have a better understanding of what can be done together from this kind of strategy or theory that we have in our relationship.

For the complete interview click here: Michael McFaul: U.S. wants to further relations with Russia, but "it takes two to tango" - Interview -

Czech Republic: Interior Ministry selects 8 presidential candidates

The Czech Interior Ministry has registered eight candidates for the January direct presidential election, turning down the bids of three of eleven serious candidates, Sovereignty chairwoman Jana Bobosikova, economist Vladimir Dlouhy and businessman and senator Tomio Okamura.

The petitions with people's signatures in support of the three candidates include too many invalid data. As a result, their number of signatories sank below the required 50,000, the ministry said on its website. The candidates can file an appeal against the decision with the Supreme Administrative Court (NSS).

The eight registered candidates include three nominated by deputies or senators and five who submitted petitions with more than 70,000 signatures, which prevented their ousting over invalid data.

Fischer and Zeman who are favourites of the election according to public opinion polls also had invalid signatures - more than 10 percent of the total, but they collected many more than required.

The incumbent President Vaclav Klaus's second and final possible five-year mandate expires in early March.

The first round of the country's first direct presidential election is due on January 11-12.
The election might be delayed if some of the eliminated candidates turned to the Constitutional Court that has no deadline for giving its verdict.

Read more: Interior Ministry selects 8 presidential candidates | Prague Monitor

Latvia: Radio show aimed at Latvians abroad plans broadcast on citizenship law - by Andris Straumanis

A new radio program devoted to Latvians abroad plans a live broadcast examining pending changes to the homeland’s Citizenship Law, according to the show’s producers.

The “21.gadsimta latvietis” (The 21st Century Latvian) broadcast is scheduled at 13:05 hours Latvia time on Sunday, Nov. 25. The broadcast will air on Latvian Radio 1 and also will available as a live stream on

Participating in the broadcast will be MP Ingmārs Čaklais, chair of the Citizenship Law Amendments Subcommittee of the Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee.

Among issues to be addressed during the broadcast will be dual citizenship and whether it will draw children born to mixed marriages back to Latvia, whether dual citizenship will result in an increase in voters who are disloyal to Latvia, and which citizenship will be more important and useful for Latvian citizens abroad.

The amendments to the Citizenship Law, which would include acknowledging dual citizenship for a broad range of individuals, have passed their second reading in the Saeima. A final vote is expected before the end of the year, in part because the amendments are supposed to take effect Jan. 1.

Read more: Radio show aimed at Latvians abroad plans broadcast on citizenship law

Slovenia: Presidential Election: Former PM still in lead

An opinion poll carried by commercial broadcaster Planet TV shows that 69% of the respondents support former Prime Minister Borut Pahor for president, while incumbent Danilo Türk got 31% of the respondents' votes.

The poll was conducted by pollster Episcenter among 930 respondents between 23 and 25 November, a week before the upcoming second round of the presidential election.

Read more: Presidential Election: Former PM still in lead

Highway Technolgy: Dutch drivers to test glow-in-the-dark highways

Drivers in the Netherlands could soon be able to see the if road conditions are dangerous even if the weather appears to be safe to drive in.

According to Wired, highway officials are considering using a photo-luminizing powder to make roads an intelligent source of information, allowing drivers to be aware of potential hazards in low light or at night. The ultimate aim of the engineering research project, which is still very much in the early stages of implementation, is to create traffic routes that are an interactive tool for drivers with glow-in-the-dark symbols indicating the current condition or to provide illumination when vehicles pass.

The powder will be charged using sunlight, with enough energy absorbed to power as much as ten hours of highway lighting. Special symbols could be painted on the roads, such as snowflakes, that would be lit up when the temperature drops to a certain point and indicating to drivers that the road could be slippery or alert them to the possibility of black ice.

The innovative idea to turn highways into an interactive information source comes at a time when traffic officials across Europe are looking to save money on highway  and street lighting. The UK government has already announced that it intends to dim motorway lights after 9 p.m. in an attempt to conserve energy and cut costs, but the "Smart Highway" could see renewable energy sources used to power dynamic lighting that only reacts when it senses an approaching vehicle.

Read more: Dutch drivers to test glow-in-the-dark highways

The Netherlands: Four in 10 Dutch households don't have enough savings

Two out of 10 Dutch households do not have enough savings to pay for emergency purchases and a further two out of 10 have no savings at all, according to research by the family spending institute Nibud.

Nibud estimates a couple need at least €4,000 in savings to pay for unexpected items like a new fridge or television, while a family with two children should have €5,000 set aside.

The fact that so many households don't have enough money reserved for emergencies is 'worrying', Nibud says. People on low incomes are least likely to have savings, as are youngsters and people living in rented accommodation.

 Read more: - Four in 10 Dutch households don't have enough savings

Britain: Mark Carney named Bank of England governor - by Bill Curry and Kevin Carmichael

Mark Carney is leaving the Bank of Canada to become governor of one of the world’s oldest central banks, the Bank of England.

Mr. Carney, the former Goldman Sachs investment banker who took over Canada’s central bank in 2008, will lead the Bank of England starting in July 2013.

"I'm honoured to accept this important and demanding role," said Mr. Carney, who noted that it is a critical time in the British, European and global economies.

Note EU-Digest:Goldman Sachs strikes again.

Read more: Mark Carney named Bank of England governor - The Globe and Mail

Political Developments in Europe - by Marc Chandler

There have been several political developments in Europe to note.  Although the immediate market impact seems modest, these developments will help shape the ongoing policy response to the financial crisis.

There have been several political developments in Europe to note.  Although the immediate market impact seems modest, these developments will help shape the ongoing policy response to the financial crisis

Read more: Political Developments in Europe - Business Insider

Free Trade or Protectionism?

Classical Liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill astutely observed in the last century that "Trade barriers are chiefly injurious to the countries imposing them." It is true today as it was then, for the following reasons:

LOST JOBS: Protectionist laws raise taxes (tariffs) on imported goods and/or impose limits (quotas) on the amount of goods governments permit to enter into a country. They are laws that not only restrict the choice of consumer goods, but also contribute greatly both to the cost of goods and to the cost of doing business. So under "protectionism" you end up poorer, with less money for buying other things you want and need. Moreover, protectionist laws that reduce consumer spending power actually end up destroying jobs. In the USA, for example, according to the US Department of Labor's own statistics, "protectionism" destroys eight jobs in the general economy for every one saved in a protected industry.
HIGHER PRICES: Japanese consumers pay five times the world price for rice because of import restrictions protecting Japanese farmers. European consumers pay dearly for EC restrictions on food imports and heavy taxes for domestic farm subsidies. American consumers also suffer from the same double burden, paying six times the world price for sugar because of trade restrictions (to give but one example). The US Semiconductor Trade Pact, which pressured Japanese producers to cut back production of computer memory chips, caused an acute worldwide shortage of these widely used parts. Prices quadrupled and companies using these components in the production of electronic consumer goods, in various countries around the world, were badly hurt.
HIGHER TAXES: Protectionist laws not only force you to pay more taxes on imported goods, but also raise your general taxes as well. This is because governments invariably expand their Customs Department bureaucracies to force compliance with their new rounds of trade restrictions (or in the case of NAFTA, trade regulations). These bureaucrats must be paid. There is also the expense of more red tape and paperwork for trading companies and more harassment of individual travelers passing through the borders.
THE DEBT CRISIS: Western Banks are owed hundreds of billions of dollars by Eastern European and Third World countries. Trade restrictions by Western governments, however, have cut off Western markets for these countries, making it virtually impossible for them to earn the hard currencies necessary to repay their loans. This increases the very real possibility of a collapse of the world banking system.

 When the government of Country "A" puts up trade barriers against the goods of Country "B", the government of Country "B" will naturally retaliate by erecting trade barriers against the goods of Country "A". The result? A trade war in which both sides lose. But all too often a depressed economy is not the only negative outcome of a trade war.

Note EU-Digest: Free trade yes but it must be fair trade where everyone is protected against greed by one party or the other. 

Read more: SIL -- Free Trade or Protectionism?


Why a Global Economic Rebound Will Be Short-lived - by Panos Mourdoukoutas

The global economy may be ready to turn the corner, according to recent economic reports coming out from China, Germany, and the US.

In China, the HSBC Flash Manufacturing Index (PMI) rose to a 13-month high of 50.4 in November.  Separately, sales of washing machines, air conditioners and refrigerators increased by 6.5 percent, 0.5 percent and 22 percent, respectively, year on year in September. In Germany, business confidence jumped to 101.4 in November from 100 in October, well ahead of expectations of 99.5, while exports boosted growth. In the US, existing housing sales, housing starts, and initial claims and leading economic indicators beat market expectations.

The trouble, however, is that this rebound, if it is for real, may be short-lived. Globalization faces several threats that will put the breaks to future growth. Some of the obstacles include:

1.   Rise of re-regulation in the US. Since the early 1980s, the US has been the champion of deregulation, a tailwind for American industries. In the aftermath of the subprime crisis, the US economy is on a re-regulation track that burdens corporations with additional costs. Most notably, Obamacare is imposing an enormous cost on smaller corporations, the engine of job growth.
2.   Proliferation of the European sovereign debt crisis. This threatens to culminate in a “credit event,” the failure of a major financial institution or a country to stand up to its debt obligations by missing an interest/principal payment. In a highly interdependent world, such an event could fuel a domino (Lehman-style) effect, with big losses for major credit institutions. As Rogoff and Reinhart put it in an interview in this weekend’s Barron’s: “Credit events don’t end with Greece. This is not a Greek problem. This is a European problem. So be prepared fo a lot of volatility surrounding future credit events.”
3.   The dismantling of “soft socialism” — drastic cuts in a European welfare system, which has boosted consumer spending and reinforced social peace for six decades.
4. The escalation of the Middle-East crisis threatens to turn into a military confrontation between Iran and Israel and Turkey and Syria in an already unstable era.
5. The China-Japan conflict over territorial disputes that threatens to turn into an economic war, if not to an open military confrontation in the world’s fastest growing region. Japanese multinationals like Honda (NYSE:HMC), Toyota (NYSE:TM) and Nissan (OTC:NSANY) have already seen the impact from this conflict.

Already, a number of US multinationals, from IBM (NYSE:IBM) to General Motors (NYSE), Intel (NASDAQ), and Federal Express (NYSE:FDX), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), and Ford (NYSE:F) have been reporting lower earnings because of a global slow-down. Could anyone imagine what would happen to the earnings of these companies should any of these threats gets out of control?

The bottom line: As long as the world is burdened with debt, government policies that constrain domestic market growth, and old and new animosities that constrain international trade, any rebound is doomed to be short-lived.

Read more: Why a Global Economic Rebound Will Be Short-lived - Forbes

France Conservatives In Disarray: UMP ‘close to collapse’ after talks fail to resolve crisis

France's main right-wing opposition party was close to collapse on Sunday after talks failed to resolve a bitter leadership dispute and an ex-prime minister vowed to take the battle to the courts.

The contested leadership vote has thrown into turmoil ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP -- still reeling from its loss of the presidency and parliament this year -- and raised the specter of an unprecedented split on the right.

Called in to mediate the damaging dispute, party heavyweight Alain Juppe threw in the towel after only 45 minutes of talks between ex-prime minister Francois Fillon and party secretary general Jean-Francois Cope late Sunday.

Read more: UMP ‘close to collapse’ after talks fail to resolve crisis - FRANCE - FRANCE 24

Poland: Reclaiming Jewish Property in Krakow

 Before World War II, the Karmel family ran a successful business in Krakow and owned a building on ul. Józefa. The family had been part of the Jewish community in the city since the 14th century. Like millions of others, they suffered the depredations of the Nazi invaders and then, when the war was over, the surviving members of the family left Poland for good. The building at ul. Józefa 1, like tens of thousands across the country, was simply abandoned. Now, almost 70 years later, New York Rabbi Joseph Karmel wants it back.

Canadian filmmaker Eric Scott became involved with Rabbi Karmel’s story when he decided to shoot a documentary about the ongoing issue of restitution in Poland. Now seeking funding to complete his project, Scott is planning to bring his crew to Krakow and ask some searching questions.

“Restitution is a documentary about an unacknowledged crime on a massive scale. Twenty three years after the fall of Communism, Poland still refuses to do what it promised to do. The government of Poland will not pass a restitution law that would either return private property or compensate Jews and their heirs for assets seized during the Nazi occupation or under the Communist regime. Poland’s unwillingness to pass such a law puts the country squarely out of step with rest of Europe,” says Scott.
Read more: Reclaiming Jewish Property in Krakow » Krakow Post

Electric Automobiles: Is the electric car dying again? - by Scott Mortman

A second administration of President Barack Obama will be forced to revisit the issue of subsidies for renewable energy and, with it, those for electric vehicles. Despite the millions of dollars spent on government incentives, marketing and promotion, sales of fully electric cars are well below projected targets. Investment in vehicle charging infrastructure also has fallen victim to budget cutbacks, limited usage and concern over the return on money spent.

Indeed, only last month, a leading automotive battery manufacturer, A123 Systems, was forced to declare bankruptcy. And the founder and CEO of Better Place, Shai Agassi, whose company (in which I was employed) promotes all-electric vehicles with batteries that can be both charged and replaced, was himself replaced due to low sales figures and high capital expenses arising from the deployment of battery-switching stations.  As a result, the question is now being raised: Are we again bearing witness to the death of the electric car?

Any such conclusion over the longer term may be premature. With declining costs and gradually improving technologies that can extend battery range beyond its current limitations, the electric car continues to hold promise. Rising gasoline prices and potential disruptions in oil supply favor alternative sources of energy.

To achieve mass market adoption, however, cars running on electricity — or any other alternative energy source — must satisfy the three “C’s”: cost, convenience and connectivity.

Read more: Is the electric car dying again? - Opinion -

Germany: Munich's blackout on Thursday remains a mystery

 Munich experienced its most extensive power blackout in two decades today when half a million people sat in darkness this morning at 7 am. U-Bahns, S-Bahns and trams ground to a standstill and non-functioning traffic lights caused chaos on the roads as well. The fire-brigade had their fair share to do when many people had to be rescued from lifts, and fire alarm systems went off for no apparent reason. It took about an hour until electricity was restored to all affected parts of the city.

There were about 1000 distress calls to the Fire department between 7 and 9 am - five times more than on a normal morning. In one of the U-Bahns, some commuters had to sit tight for up to 45 minutes before the train resumed its journey.

"We're dealing with probably a technical failure," said the head of SWM-network services, Eduard Bauer. The defect occurred in an interface into the grid from Eon Bavaria. It is still unclear as to what exactly happened.

Read more: Munich's blackout on Thursday remains a mystery