One of the more useful pieces I found over the festive period, thanks to Craig Willy ? a rare outsider to the European system who actually understands how it works, and as such an excellent guide who comes with limited baggage (and some occasionally forceful and thought-provoking opinions):
The European Union sought to calm fears in countries like Britain, France and Germany that they face a mass influx of Romanians and Bulgarians following the lifting of restrictions yesterday (1 January), a change that risks fuelling anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe.
From 1 January, seven years after their countries joined the EU, Bulgarians and Romanians are free to live and work anywhere in the 28-nation bloc without applying for work permits.
A former Greek government official who admitted taking ?13.7 in bribes more than ten years ago to wave through arms contracts, has returned ?7 million of the money to the state, the finance ministry said on 31 December.
Antonis Kantas, deputy armaments chief at the defence ministry between 1997 and 2002, was arrested and charged this month after investigating judges found he had ?13.7 million euros of unaccounted-for money in a Singapore bank.
Kantas is the first Greek official to openly admit to taking bribes relating to major arms deals with foreign companies from countries including Germany, France, Russia, Brazil and Sweden.
Latvia joined the euro zone yesterday (1 January), banking on its experience of austerity to bring it prosperity in a currency union where other economies have floundered. The 2-million Baltic country adopted the common EU currency on the 15th anniversary of the launch of the euro.
The Baltic country of just 2 million people became the bloc’s 18th member at midnight (2200 GMT), taking a step further out of the shadow of neighbouring Russia a decade after joining the European Union and NATO.
Brussels has spoken out in defence of the removal of the last labour market barriers for Romanians and Bulgarians on January 1. Obstacles for workers are not the answer to the crisis, EU employment commissioner László Andor pointed out on Wednesday. The fact that the UK is now cutting benefits for jobless immigrants is just populism, commentators say. They argue that the economy benefits from the free movement of workers.
The EU didn?t realise for years that the only motivation of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in pretending to negotiate an association agreement with the EU was to raise the price that Russia would have to pay to keep Ukraine in its strategic orbit. This EU blunder demands explanation, writes Joschka Fischer.
Joschka Fischer was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005, a term marked by Germany’s strong support for NATO?s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, followed by its opposition to the war in Iraq. This article was first published by Project Syndicate.