Tag Archives: Eastern Europe

New Open Letter on Russia

There is a new open letter by Eastern European and Western politicians, intellectuals and activists. The list is long: Vaclav Havel, Valdas Adamkus, Mart Laar, Vytautas Landsbergis, Otto de Habsbourg, Daniel Cohn Bendit, Timothy Garton Ash, André Glucksmann, Mark Leonard, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Adam Michnik, Josep Ramoneda.

The letter addresses the Russian occupation of parts of the territory of Georgia. It focuses on the EU policies towards Russia and contains strong reminiscences to WWII. The authors say:

“It would be utterly disastrous if we were to appear in any way to condone the kind of practices that plunged our continent into war and division for most of the last century.”

This letter comes after a previous one in July 2009 that addressed the United states policies towards Central and Eastern Europe, and after the decision of the US to withdraw plans for a missile shield in the region.

European Parliament Posts: Where is the Balance?

Euractiv reports that Eastern European member states are underrepresented in executive positions in the commissions of the European Parliament.

Bulgarian MEP Ivailo Kalfin says that the d’Hondt principle for the distribution of chairs, and the fact that many MEPs from Eastern Europe come for the first time in the European Parliament, are the main reasons for the underrepresentation.

The article summarizes the supposed criteria for the negotiations to determine which MEP from which group gets which chair: large vs. small countries, the weight of the political group, the stature and profile of the MEP, and gender balance.

This does not look like a very transparent guideline, indeed.

Racist Crimes are Underreported in Europe

The European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey shows that most of the racism-motivated crimes are not reported in EU Member States. Most of the interviewed didn’t report, because it would not change anything (63%). Roma in 4 countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Greece, are in the top 5 groups most discriminated against.

Bulgaria appears more tolerant on this scale.

Election Ballots Will Be Recounted in Moldova After All

Moldova’s Constitutional Court ordered the Central Election Commission to carry out the recount after receiving the request from the Communist President Vladimir Voronin.

The opposition demands a new election.

Meanwhile EU diplomats in Moldova are trying to verify reports of gross human rights violations in the aftermath of anti-government protests. Havier Solana’s special envoy to Moldova, Hungarian diplomat Kalman Mizsei, has been in Chisinau for the past week on a mission to establish a dialogue between government and opposition forces and to gather facts.

This is a welcome development, but it remains to be seen whether tensions will subside. I am impressed by claims of civil organizations in Moldova reported by EurActiv that claim that preconditions are being created for the establishment of a police and dictatorial regime in the Republic of Moldova.

Today democracy obviously comes in short supply.

IMF: New Member States Should Enter the Eurozone

The Financial Times has published findings in a previously confidential report by the International Monetary Fund claiming that:

“Without euroisation, addressing the foreign debt currency overhang would require massive domestic retrenchment in some countries, against growing political resistance.”

The IMF goes further to suggest the introduction of Euro in Eastern Europe states even without formally joining the eurozone, as well as a relaxation of entry rules for the eurozone.

Such proposals are objected in principle by the European Central Bank, Member States in the eurozone, and even some governments in Eastern Europe. The IMF is well aware of that fact, so it should have really serious motives for disclosing its report.

The EU Response to the Economic Crisis – Update

In the last few days a couple of events in the EU provide some clues to the EU approach to tackle the economic and financial crisis.

The most important clue is contained in the Competitiveness Council conclusions. The Key Issues Paper “Responding pro-actively to the economic downturn” includes Council positions on several issues. The Council stresses the necessity “to achieve an open, flexible and fully functioning internal market by removing existing barriers to fundamental freedoms and avoiding the creation of new ones”. This is probably the most important message, once again repeated with view of the external direction of the internal market: “open markets, both in the European Union and globally, are crucial to ensure growth and jobs.”

This is a really important aspect of the EU policies in tackling the crisis. If we are to believe the prevailing economic theory, it was indeed protectionism and market barriers that exacerbated the Great Depression.

The Council has also addressed the auto sector claims for a financial bail-out. There it calls for the EC and the EIB Group to prepare proposals for the Spring European Council as to how to limit the liquidity gap and improve the access to finance for the industry. Again, the Council stresses on “the need to refrain from protectionism and discriminatory measures in the global car market”.

Equally important are comments by the Commission president Barroso on ideas for EU-backed government debt, or a single EU bond. He said “I don’t think it is useful to make speculations over ideas that have no chance at all of being decided”.

Barroso also dismissed the idea of fast-tracking some EU member states into the euro zone, claiming it could destabilize it.

At the same time the ECB has lowered its key interest rate by 50 basis points to 1,5%. The ECB believes that both global and domestic demand will decline in 2009 but thereafter recover gradually.

A general assessment can be made that the EU institutions view this crisis as a serious threat to the EU economy, but not as a terminal threat. However, some economic experts believe that this is not the case, and that real hardships are ahead, demanding much stronger policy measures (see this piece by Eurointelligence, as well as a devastating report by Absolute Returns Parrtners called “Europe on the Ropes”).

No Special Aid for Eastern Europe

The extraordinary EU summit on 1 March has not backed proposals for a financial bail-out plan for Eastern Europe, and new member states in particular.

The only specific decision of the summit was to instruct ECOFIN to work closely with the European Commission to draw up elements to help countries facing temporary imbalances “on the basis of all available instruments”.

It remains to be seen what these instruments will and will not include.