Riot police guarded a bank in Athens yesterday during a nationwide protest against the government?s latest austerity measures. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)
The EU?s final two-day heads of government summit of 2010 starts Thursday and early betting is that it will be much quieter than the last time the 27 leaders assembled in Brussels, a gathering that set off a bond market panic which the continent is still recovering from.
The main event will be Thursday night, when the leaders are expected to sign off on a brief change in the EU?s treaty to allow for the creation of a new financial rescue system to replace the current, temporary ?750bn bail-out fund.
It is a pre-summit tradition in Brussels for the heads of state to divide up and huddle with their fellow partisan big-wigs for a few hours before the main event. The idea is that they are ?coordinating their positions? – although one suspects they are probably trading gossip.
At the EU summit that begins today in Brussels a permanent crisis mechanism for the Eurozone is to be established that will start functioning in 2013. Disputed issues like euro bonds and increasing the bailout fund have been removed from the agenda. A deep rift divides Europe, the press writes and calls for more cooperation between EU states.
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A new site, Brussels Leaks, modeled after WikiLeaks, launched out of the blue last Thursday to much excitement in the European capital and the Twittersphere. This follows the announcement of OpenLeaks, a spin-off from WikiLeaks from former workers there. But Brussels Leaks doesn’t plan to run the documents that are leaked to it, but rather rely on the media to distribute the best material.
Over 80 million people in the EU are still living at risk of poverty and a quarter of these citizens are children. The economic crisis has exacerbated this situation, exposing vulnerable groups even more. With the 2010 European Year against Poverty and Social Exclusion drawing to a close, the EU must continue to step up its efforts for the decade to come on this key issue. Bringing vulnerable groups into the heart of our societies and labour markets is central to sustainable and inclusive growth. Poverty reduction is an engine for this future growth. At the initiative of the European Commission, EU leaders have already set, for the first time ever, a concrete numerical target to reduce poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020. Today’s communication, ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion’ sets out ways to help Member States move up a gear in fighting social exclusion. Countries now have to set their own ambitious national targets, reporting annually on their progress. The Commission will support these efforts, mobilising ? among others ? policies like social protection, employment and education, as well as EU funding. It will also promote new partnerships and new ways of combating poverty through social innovation to test new policy ideas.
Five years of denial: the UK government?s reckless pursuit of a punitive asylum policy ? never mind the evidence of harm, Clare Sambrook
Maybe deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is poised to end for good the scandal of child detention by the immigration authorities in his pre-Christmas statement. Maybe not.
Yesterday I tried to follow single market developments and the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) by publishing two blog posts on Grahnlaw Suomi Finland:
At the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún 193 states have declared their willingness to limit global warming to two degrees Celcius. The declaration of intent is at least a step in the direction of a Kyoto follow-up agreement, writes the press.
from EUobserver.com – Headline News
Since the Grahnlaw blog post EU Commission: Internal market reform (9 December 2010), I have actually been busy writing about the internal market or single market, although on my other blogs and partly in other languages.
Here is a summary of the latest entries:
from EUobserver.com – Headline News
BERLIN ? The International Monetary Fund estimates that the crisis-induced net cost of financial-sector support provided by G-20 countries in 2009 amounted to 1.7% of GDP ($905 billion), while discretionary fiscal stimulus amounted to 2% of GDP in both 2009 and 2010. All the eurozone countries, except Luxembourg and Finland, reported fiscal deficits in excess of 3% of GDP in 2009, while Greece, Spain, and Ireland ran deficits of more than 10%. Within a single year, eurozone governments? general debt increased by almost 10 percentage points (78.7% of GDP in 2009, compared with 69.3% in 2008).
The problem with elections, a wise man once said, is that the politicians always win.
So it must seem in Italy, which on Tuesday faces a dramatic no-confidence vote in Silvio Berlusconi, the country’s clownish prime minister (last seen bailing a 17-year-old belly dancer out of jail under dubious circumstances and defending his actions by saying at least I’m not gay) but appears to have no viable alternative leader waiting in the wings.
Silvio Berlusconi has survived – just. On successive days, 13-14 December 2010, the prime minister won a vote of confidence in both houses of the Italian parliament (senate and chamber of deputies), which if lost would have led to his resignation and/or a new general election. His majority in the senate was comfortable thanks to the preponderance of his allies there; but the margin in the lower house was just three votes (314-311), reflecting the split in Berlusconi?s ruling coalition in summer 2010 after his former leading ally Gianfranco Fini – who transformed his post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance / AN) into a conservative party before merging with Berlusconi?s Forza Italia to become the Il Popolo della Libertà (People of Liberty / PdL) in 2008 – finally broke with him.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi managed to scrape through an opposition-led no confidence motion by just three votes in the chamber of deputies on Tuesday. In the aftermath of the vote riots broke out at demonstrations all over the country. Berlusconi’s arrogance is making the country ungovernable, writes the press, and bemoans the lack of serious opponents.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is queuing for new freedom; as of 15 December, the European Union will have liberalised the visa situation so that citizens can travel to the 25 countries of the Schengen. But contrary to the EU’s expectations, not everyone is jumping for joy with the news
After the suicide attack in Stockholm, police are tracking down accomplices to the suspected Islamist perpetrator. Sweden must remain an open society, says the press, and urges Muslims to distance themselves from the fanatical minority.
If Greece’s crisis has political roots, it will have a solution in wide-ranging institutional reform, Iannis Carras
Takis Pappas (29 November 2010) has made a fair shot of answering the classic question ?who is to blame? for the drama that is unfolding in Greece today. It is of course much harder to come up with an answer to that second question: ?what is to be done?.
At the student fees protest in London last week, a young man with cerebral palsy was allegedly twice hauled from his wheelchair and dragged across the ground by police officers. Footage of the incident soon appeared on the internet, while the man, a 20-year-old activist and blogger named Jody McIntyre, was invited onto BBC News to recount his ordeal. ?Did you shout anything provocative, or throw anything that would of induced the police to do that to you?? he was asked by the presenter, Ben Brown. ?There?s a suggestion that you were rolling towards the police in your wheelchair, is that true?? McIntyre kept his calm and replied. ?Do you really think a person with cerebral palsy, in a wheelchair, can pose a threat to a police officer who is armed with weapons??