May 1st, 2012
09:30 AM ET

Roundup: European May Day rallies protest austerity

Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tens of thousands of workers are expected to protest strict austerity measures during annual May Day rallies in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France today. The International Workers' Day demonstrations come amid rising anger over the rigid fiscal cutbacks (Reuters) being mandated by Berlin and Brussels to tackle the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Spain became the latest eurozone economy to fall into recession on Monday. Today's rallies come ahead of pivotal national elections in Greece and France this weekend in which voters are expected to turn on austerity.


"She is determined to stick by her strategy. But now when she talks about the euro crisis, instead of focusing solely on 'structural reforms' and 'stability,' she has also started to refer to 'growth' and 'jobs.' Merkel's euro strategy is under fire, and she has lost one ally after the next in recent weeks," explains Der Spiegel.

"For while the Germans are often portrayed as knuckleheaded advocates of endless austerity, their real message is more sophisticated and convincing. It is that the drive to balance budgets within Europe must be combined with reforms that will encourage private-sector job creation," writes the Financial Times' Gideon Rachman.

"The progress of the eurozone crisis will, in turn, depend on the length and depth of the euro-area recession. If output is shrinking and unemployment rising, then austerity measures are likely to make economic conditions worse while raising very little new revenue. The euro zone may fall ever deeper into a hole," says the Economist.

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Chinese Dissident Not Seeking U.S. Asylum, But Safety

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is thought to be sheltered at the U.S. embassy in Beijing after escaping house arrest last week, is apparently unwilling to leave China (WSJ), complicating the ability of U.S. officials to assist Chen as they negotiate with the Chinese leadership.

MYANMAR: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (BBC) for the first time today during a three-day visit to the country. Suu Kyi is expected to be sworn into parliament on Wednesday after agreeing to take a contested oath.



Obama Adviser Defends Drone Strikes

U.S. President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, defended U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia yesterday, saying civilian casualties were "exceedingly rare." Brennan's speech comes amid Pakistani outrage over a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on Sunday, which killed at least three people.

Targeted killings have become a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations around the globe. Despite pointed criticism over transparency and accountability issues, analysts say the controversial practice seems likely to expand in the future, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

INDIA: Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul is meeting with his Indian counterpart, S. M. Krishna, in New Delhi today to open the first session of an India-Afghanistan council (AP) that was agreed to under a strategic pact signed by both countries last year.



Press Freedoms on the Rise in Middle East, North Africa

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa saw "precarious but potentially far-reaching gains" for press freedom (PDF), particularly in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt in the wake of the Arab Spring, according to Freedom of the Press 2012, a new report by the Washington-based Freedom House.

ISRAEL: Defense Minister Ehud Barak reiterated Monday night that an Israeli military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities remains a distinct possibility (NYT), saying he did not have confidence in international negotiations aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution.

There is new debate over the impact of economic sanctions on Iran's nuclear diplomacy. This CFR Backgrounder assesses decades of economic and diplomatic measures against Tehran.



Mali's Junta Fends off Counter-Coup

Mali's ruling military junta–which seized power in a coup in late March before technically handing over power to an interim government two weeks ago–has retained control of the capital of Bamako (BBC) after a counter-coup attempt by loyalists of ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure.

NIGERIA: Government forces raided the hideout of suspected Boko Haram Islamist militants (Reuters) in the northern city of Kano today, killing one in a gun battle. The raid followed a series of deadly attacks on Christian and police targets in northern Nigeria.

Widening violence by Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram has caused concerns about its possible links to international terrorist groups, explains this CFR Backgrounder.



Family of Former Ukrainian PM Calls for International Support

The husband and daughter of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to prison for seven years last October in a trial considered to be politically motivated, called on the international community to pressure the Ukrainian government (Guardian) into releasing the sick opposition leader.



Colombian Air Force Helicopter Crashes

A Colombian air force helicopter crashed in the town of Sabanagrande, near the Caribbean coast, killing all thirteen police and air force personnel aboard (Al-Jazeera). The incident is under investigation, officials said.

VENEZUELA: President Hugo Chavez signed a new labor law granting new benefits and a four-hour reduction in the work week to forty hours, before flying to Cuba for another round of cancer treatment (MercoPress) to address a second tumor in his pelvic region.


Romney, Trade Missions, and Budget Cutting

In his four years as Massachusetts's governor, Romney avoided trade missions (RCP), viewing trips abroad as a waste of taxpayer money, an attitude that may offer a glimpse into Romney's proclivity for budget cutting.

According to Gallup, President Obama's April 2012 job approval rating averaged 47 percent, his highest monthly average since May 2011, when he averaged 50 percent after U.S. Marines killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan. This April, Obama averaged 84 percent approval among Democrats, 43 percent with independents, and 12 percent from Republicans.

Emphasizing his ties with Israel, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a press release Monday acknowledging the death of Benzion Netanyahu (NYT), the father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.

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Topics: Daily Roundup

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    What these people need to protest is the creation of the Eurozone and the Maastricht Treaty. Each country over there needs to work on it's own economy and forget all this nonsense about European unity!

    May 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Sarkozy, a president of the rich went to a Labour Day rally and was wooing swing voters from left and right. They make up 20%. Marine Le Pen urged her supporters to cast a blank vote in the runoff election this Sunday. She wants to unseat Sarkozy and there's no love lost between her and the Socialist hopeful, Francois Holland.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Just think j.von hettlingen, it would indeed be fantastic if Marine Le Pen could beat Sarkozy and become the next President of France. After all, she has the right ideas whereas the others don't!!!

      May 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Chen Guangcheng wouldn't leave China without his wife and their child. If he remains in China and demands the U.S. to guarrantee for his safety there, it would strain the relations between the two countries further more.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    No one, indeed, will be pondering the implications of a "regime change" in France more anxiously than Angela Merkel. She and Sarkozy were never natural soul-mates, but they did find a way to work together, and managed to steer the Eurozone through the crisis.

    May 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Ordinary Ukrainians aren't keen to take to the streets and protest against the maltreatment of the former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Few ordinary Ukrainians seemed to speak out for her – an alleged successful businesswoman. Some were afraid of retaliation, others weren't sure if she was innocent.

    May 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
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