By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
The Great Recession and the ensuing euro crisis have wreaked havoc with the European economy and now threaten to undermine the European Union itself. As Washington prepares to begin negotiations with Brussels on a U.S.-EU free trade agreement, America’s European partner has never been weaker. Europeans’ lack of faith in the European Project and the fissures that have emerged in European public opinion between the French and the Germans bode ill both for efforts to revive the European economy and for effective transatlantic cooperation in the near future.
Support for European economic integration – the idea that if nations lower their trade and investment barriers they will all be better off – is down over the last year in five of the eight European Union countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in March 2013.
Fewer than a third of Europeans surveyed now think European economic integration has strengthened their economy. This includes just 11 percent of Greeks and Italians and only 22 percent of the French, the latter two citizens of founding members of the European Community. Since the fall of 2009, meanwhile, support for a more integrated European economy has dropped sharply: by 21 points in France, 20 points in Italy, and 16 points in Spain.
By Fareed Zakaria
Jonathan Laurence of Boston College, who's done extensive research of Muslim communities in Europe, found that before 1990 European countries were largely indifferent towards their Muslim populations - letting foreign embassies, like Saudi Arabia, set up the mosques and meeting centers for these groups. They realized that this produced a radicalized and unassimilated migrant community. So now, in recent years, governments at all levels are engaging with Muslim communities, taking steps to include Muslims in mainstream society but also trying to nurture a more modern, European version of Islam.
It's worth noting, Islamic terrorism has declined in Europe in recent years. The lesson from Europe appears to be: engage with Muslim communities. That's a conclusion U.S. law enforcement agencies would confirm. The better the relationship with local Muslim groups, the more likely those groups are to provide useful information about potential jihadis.
By Gareth Price, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Gareth Price is senior research fellow on the Asia Program at Chatham House. The views expressed are his own.
The EU’s announcement Monday that it is lifting sanctions against Myanmar, following their suspension last year, poses some important questions about the country’s future political and economic development – and the role of the international community.
Discussing the suspension of sanctions, which had been in place since 1990, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said last April that "great progress has been made” in Myanmar, but added that he was "very concerned about conflict and human rights abuses." These concerns justified suspending rather than lifting sanctions. A year on, it is unclear that those concerns have been eased.
In the intervening twelve months, what amounts to a pogrom has been launched against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. The Rohingya are Muslim, are denied citizenship and so are effectively stateless. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, more than 125,000 have been displaced.
By Matthew Rojansky, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew A. Rojansky is deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are his own.
Europe’s too little, too late responses to the Eurozone crisis and the Arab awakening have amply demonstrated the difficulty of forging and enforcing a common position among 27 EU member states. Yet in at least one important area, Brussels has adopted a clear position supported by national governments: Ukraine, the largest country that is wholly within Europe yet outside the EU, should receive a path to closer EU integration – but only if it meets a set of key conditions intended to demonstrate its commitment to basic European values.
EU officials say that by November, they will be prepared to sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine, which promises liberalized market access for both sides plus visa-free travel for Ukrainians, if Kiev meets three requirements. First, Ukraine must advance its domestic reform agenda, bringing Ukrainian practices closer into line with European norms. Second, it must address the shortcomings of the recent parliamentary elections and guarantee free and fair elections in the future. Finally and most urgently, Ukraine must cease using the criminal justice system to target opposition politicians, a problem epitomized by the case of Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted of abuse of office in 2011, and is now serving a seven year prison term.
By Heather Gautney, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Heather Gautney is an assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University, and author of ‘Protest and Organization in the Alternative Globalization Era.’ The views expressed are her own.
The United States has become one of the most unequal countries in the world. Just 1 percent of Americans own about 40 percent of our wealth, gaining all of the nation’s income growth from 2009-2011. The income of the average middle class family is lower today, in real dollars, than it was 17 years ago. And 46 million people live in poverty, including about one in five children by some estimates.
CEO pay scales are both a symptom and cause of these terrible trends.
Defenders of high pay levels argue that corporate executives are our nation’s job creators. If only that were true. Despite a record-high Dow and soaring corporate profits, our workforce remains stymied around 8 percent unemployment, a gross underestimate if you include those actively looking for work. The truth is that employers are content with boosting productivity and racing workers to the bottom.
By Charles A. Kupchan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Charles A. Kupchan is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University. He was director for European affairs at the National Security Council during the first Clinton administration. The views expressed are his own.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died Monday, altered the course of post-war Europe. As the leader of the Conservative Party, she liberalized the British economy, ultimately forcing Britain’s Labour Party to the political center and irreversibly remaking the country’s political landscape. Meanwhile, she consolidated in her own party a determined skepticism of European integration, setting the stage for the U.K.’s ongoing efforts to keep its distance from the European Union. Finally, she set a gold standard for Anglo-American relations, forging a close relationship with President Ronald Reagan. Teamwork between London and Washington helped guide the Cold War to a peaceful end.
The economic destruction wrought by World War II ensured the consolidation of a European left with socialist leanings – one strongly committed to the welfare state, labor unions, and economic policies aimed at taming the free market. Thatcher effectively pulled off an economic course correction that fundamentally altered British – and European – politics. By forcing through liberalizing reforms that ultimately produced an impressive economic expansion, she dealt a decisive blow to Britain’s traditional left. Privatizing industries, taking on trade unions, scaling back the welfare state – these and other policies aimed at economic modernization proved uniquely controversial, but also successful in producing results as well as strong electoral support. Thatcher, Britain’s only female prime minister, stayed in office from 1979 until 1990.
By William Pomeranz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: William Pomeranz is the acting director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. The views expressed are his own.
The European financial crisis has reared its ugly head – this time in Cyprus. The tiny nation’s lawmakers have rejected a confiscatory tax on bank deposits that would have allowed the nation to receive a 10 billion euro bailout from the EU. Cypriot citizens angrily took to the streets to express their disapproval of the plan, but it turns out that they were not the only aggrieved party. The Russian government also joined in the chorus of protests, calling the Cypriot government’s actions “unjust, unprofessional, and dangerous.” Much of the money to be expropriated, it turns out, is held by Russian individuals and businesses (or, to put it in slightly less flattering terms, oligarchs and shell companies). But Russia’s public outrage masked a more fundamental dispute with Cyprus concerning the island’s status as a major offshore financial center.
By Peter Sparding, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Peter Sparding is a Transatlantic Fellow for economic policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, DC. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
It was a brief passage in the State of the Union address, but it might well prove to be one of the more consequential. In one short sentence, President Barack Obama informed Congress about his intention to launch negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. For decades advocates on both sides of the Atlantic have been arguing for a more comprehensive agreement. Now it finally seems within reach.
The case for closer economic ties across the Atlantic is strong. The United States and Europe remain each other’s most important economic partners, and together are responsible for almost 50 percent of the world’s GDP and 30 percent of global trade. Europe accounts for half of U.S. investments abroad – some $2.1 trillion in 2011 – and remains the most important source of foreign direct investment in the United States. More than 13 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic are supported by transatlantic trade and investment.
By Matthew Levitt, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew Levitt directs the Stein program on counterterrorism at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is the author of ‘Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.’ The views expressed are his own.
The announcement by Bulgaria that the airport bus bombing there last July was likely the handiwork of Hezbollah operatives now has European officials scrambling to decide what, if anything, to do about the fact that the group has now resumed executing attacks on European soil.
In the 1980s, Hezbollah carried out attacks across the continent, and since then it has used Europe as a near-abroad where it could conveniently raise money, procure weapons and provide logistical support for attacks to be carried out elsewhere. But the Bulgarian investigation raises as many questions as it answers. In particular, why would Hezbollah specifically choose to carry out an attack there? And why now?
While it kept up its relentless campaign of military and terrorist activities targeting Israel, and despite unabated tensions with the West, Hezbollah had not carried out a successful spectacular attack targeting Western interests beyond Israel since the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
By Nicholas Walton, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Nicholas Walton is the communications director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
The first notable dissenting voice came from a familiar figure, that sensible German woman with her reasonable manner and head full of common sense. “Let’s talk,” said Angela Merkel, in response to her British counterpart David Cameron’s speech on Europe, in which he pledged a referendum in the next parliament on whether Britain should leave the European Union.
The wider European response to Britain’s perceived wrecking tactics had ranged from scorn to anger; Merkel spoke instead of reaching a “fair compromise” with the perfidious Brits. Although this left plenty of future room for Merkel to be able to twist British arms towards her own Europhile viewpoint, it also spoke to a wider concern about the direction the European project might be taking: while some worry that the Brits are turning away from Europe, others worry that Europe is turning away from the world.
By Lydia Gall, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Lydia Gall is the Eastern Europe and the Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are her own.
A prominent columnist calls for a “final solution” for Hungary’s Roma population. A member of parliament calls for drawing up a list of Jewish people involved in Hungarian politics. Two-thirds of those asked in an opinion poll say they wouldn’t let their child be friends with a Romani child. Another poll suggests a similar number believe Jewish people have too much influence. One doesn’t have to be a student of history to be worried about the growing climate of intolerance in Hungary.
The hatred clutching Hungary has deepened since the present government took office in 2010 and made a gradual shift to the right. The ongoing campaign by Fidesz, the ruling party, to undermine the rule of law and its clampdown on human rights has contributed to the current state of chauvinistic attitudes in the public domain toward minorities and other vulnerable groups. Government silence has allowed right wing parties such as Jobbik to accelerate hate speech against minorities as well as people within its own ranks, while paramilitaries close to Jobbik carry out intimidating marches through Roma settlements.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
This year promises both challenges and opportunities for transatlantic relations. Afghanistan and Syria pose new tests for NATO. The looming confrontation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program could try Alliance solidarity. But 2013 may also be the year that Washington and Brussels begin the integration of the world’s two largest economies. Indeed, the next twelve months could prove key for both security and economic ties between Europe and the United States.
Why? After two decades of talking about it, the European Union and the United States may finally launch free trade negotiations this year. More than half of the American public thinks that increased trade with the European Union would be good for the United States, according to a Pew Research Center survey, confirming earlier findings in both Europe and the United States by the German Marshall Fund. And an EU-U.S. deal would actually prove more beneficial to the United States than the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement it is currently pursuing in Asia, according to separate studies by the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels and the Peterson Institute in Washington.