Posted: Sunday 06 May 2012
President Francois Hollande is but the latest example of a recent, perhaps obvious phenomenon. As a long and painful recession has continued in Europe, voters have punished incumbent governments at the polls. In fact, nine major Europe countries have ousted leaders since the global financial crisis - ten if you include Britain in 2010 - and more often than not these toppled governments have been a direct result of the more specific branch of the world-wide down-turn: Europe's own Eurozone crisis.
The nine countries are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain - and now France. The latest French casualty is perhaps the most significant. The Eurozone crisis has been addressed by German and French leaders working closely together. Franco-German unity on the crisis was not always there, it took some time for the French to accept the German idea that debt - not growth - should be the focus, and that austerity - rather than stimulus - should be the solution. Stability has a quality all of its own, and although many stood opposed to the analysis, it produced a fiscal pact almost every European nation could agree on.
This is why Hollande is so important.
Posted: Monday 23 Jan 2012
Europe in 2012 will feel the effects of 2011
First published by Next Europe
Undoubtedly, 2011 was a tough year for Europe. Two issues stood out: migratory pressures from North Africa and the Eurozone crisis. Immigration from the “Arab Spring”, and fiscal strain due to the Euro’s problems. Both events combined to severely test European institutions.
Posted: Sunday 22 May 2011
We can all see how Europe is undergoing changes. Concerns over European sovereign debt has meant very public and dramatic fiscal worries, and the lingering effects of the wider recession are still very much present in most European countries. But not all our problems are making the sorts of headlines they deserve, something true of one very important debate currently under way in Europe. The debate is very simple: at a time when new countries are due admittance to the Schengen zone, the concept of free movement in Europe is under threat.
Posted: Thursday 10 Mar 2011
The current revolutions in the Middle East – and there is no other word for them – were a surprise. No major commentators predicted them, and no current practitioner can truly predict where they will end. We must of course support any democratic change in these countries. The people in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and other nations deserve whatever support we can offer their aspirations. This is only right.
There is, however, a problem. As well as how to help protestors in the abstract – the possibility of supporting democracies that do not yet exist – we must address the concrete potential of a humanitarian disaster. Asking a single question of the situation in Libya throws this problem into very sharp relief. How do we help people who may flee violence if the situation turns against them, and against democracy, in the Middle East?
Posted: Sunday 12 Dec 2010
In November, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) released its 2010 report on homophobia and discrimination in Europe. I was at the European Parliament launch of this report with Morten Kjaerum, Director of FRA.
Whilst the report does note the positive and expanding aspects of LGBT rights, it still makes for a sobering read. Reporting on EU Member States, it sadly depicts a situation in which LGBT rights are not enjoyed evenly across Europe.
The report was commissioned by the European Parliament in 2009 and does strike some positive notes. But we cannot be complacent. Homophobia also exists right on the EU’s doorstep.