By Stijn Hoorens, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Stijn Hoorens is associate director and head of the Brussels office of RAND Europe. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Prince George, the first child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, arrived last week, an event watched with king-sized anticipation across the globe. The royal birth comes at a time when fertility in Britain is increasing after decades of decline. Today, the U.K.’s total fertility rate, a proxy for the average number of children per women in a given year, is the third highest in Europe behind only France and Ireland. Is Britain on the cusp of a baby boom?
Fertility rates across Europe declined year-on-year between the post-war baby boom and the end of the 1990s. Europe’s total fertility rates dropped in most countries below the threshold needed to maintain a stable population, the so-called “replacement level” of 2.1 children per woman. But the dawn of the new century saw the declines cease and birth rates actually began to trend upwards in many countries, including the U.K.
And, while fertility rates in some European countries have resumed their downward trajectory in the last couple of years, Britain stands out as an exception, a place where a baby boom may well be taking shape.
By Guy Anderson, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Guy Anderson is Chief Industry Analyst (A&D) for IHS Jane’s. This piece is based on data taken from IHS Jane’s latest study, ‘The Balance of Trade.’ The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Defense cuts expected to be announced by the British government on Wednesday will be only the latest example of how the West is sowing the seed of its own decline in global defense markets, as cuts force industry to export more of the blueprints of its expertise.
True, industry doesn’t really have any choice. But the explosion in exports is still leading Western countries to pile into export markets, devouring each other as they fuel the rise of Asia. Indeed, it’s increasingly clear that in the long term, ongoing defense cuts are putting at risk not just the future job prospects and global influence of the United Kingdom, but also those of European defense and the United States, too.
For a start, these cuts will erode the long term technological advantages that Western countries traditionally hold. Export today is about selling the blueprints of expertise rather than just finding buyers for the finished product – the days of simply selling equipment are gone. Traditionally, countries maintain an edge because government investments encourage research and development, something that has declined sharply in Western markets in recent years.
By Izza Leghtas, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Izza Leghtas is a Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. You can follow her @IzzaLeghtas. The views expressed are her own.
When I heard the news about the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on May 22, my first reaction was horror. My second was dread. Sadly, my fears that anger would be targeted at Muslim communities across the U.K. have been confirmed.
Over 200 incidents against Muslims and mosques have been recorded since the murder, the most serious one an arson attack on Grimsby Islamic Centre in Lincolnshire, while people were inside. (Thankfully, initial reports suggest that police forces across the U.K. have responded well, including with preventive deployment of officers).
Rigby’s gruesome killing is rightly being treated as a crime. The alleged attackers, Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, have been charged with murder. They should be prosecuted fairly. But the murder is inevitably also being treated as a terrorist incident, triggering an almost equally inevitable political response.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
The sheer barbarism of the attack on a British soldier in Woolwich is really beyond comprehension – the alleged murderers are said to have hacked the victim to death, waited for the police to arrive, and seemed to encourage people to videotape their brutality.
And yet, we have to search for some way to think about what appears to be our future.
Terrorism used to be about something big and dramatic. But perhaps because groups like al Qaeda are on the run, their people hunted, their money tracked, their hideouts bombed, Woolwich and Boston have become the new faces of terror – a few people, disturbed or fanatical, radicalized by things they have read or watched, decide to commit evil.
By Jeffrey N DeMarco, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jeffrey DeMarco is a lecturer in Criminology at Kingston University and research associate with the Centre of Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London. The views expressed are his own.
Here we are again. An attack. A metropolis. A sensational depiction of violence. A Western victim. These are the thematic artifacts of our current (British) understanding of the “War on Terror.” Regardless of the venue, the perpetrator, or the modus operandi we reach an ultimate conclusion: Islamic jihadists. Full stop. The drawn out era of conflict post-9/11 has limited our already narrow understanding of a worldwide conflict fuelled by our incomprehension of “another.” The “War on Terror,” meanwhile, has evolved.
When the Twin Towers fell, our concept of terrorism and victimology dramatically changed. No longer did these atrocities play out on foreign soils, but instead on our neighbors’ door steps. The attack on London's transit system in July 2005, as with that on Madrid's in March 2004, only reinforced our own feelings of victimization. What we fail to acknowledge is the evolutionary process terrorism, as crime, follows.
On Thursday, with the killing in Woolwich in Southeast London of a man believed to be a soldier, we were reminded of the dynamic nature that a terrorist act can take. As details emerge, we see the substantiated process of the “lone wolf” or “wolf pack” emerging further. The purpose of terrorism is not, contrary to popular belief, to terminate the maximum number of lives. Instead, the goal is the installation of fear and uncertainty amongst the populace. Al Qaeda’s influence is not about direct contact – the group’s mere existence is intoxicating, given the appropriate channels.
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 Kerry Brown, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kerry brown is executive director of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney and associate fellow at Chatham House. The views expressed are his own.
Reports suggesting that India withdrew from a planned naval exercise with the United States last month out of fears it might upset Beijing are only the latest reason to grapple with an increasingly pertinent question: What are the costs these days of hurting the feelings of the Chinese people?
Finding the answer to this question – and a way to overcome associated potential problems – has become ever more urgent as China’s perceived assertiveness has grown. And two recent diplomatic spats in particular are worth paying attention to: the fights China has picked with Britain and Norway. Both involved differences over values and human rights. Both saw a stiff political response from Beijing. And both say much about China’s changing role in the international system.
For the U.K., the trigger was British Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in London last May. Almost immediately, high level visits from China were pulled. The former head of the National People’s Congress and second ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee at the time, Wu Bangguo, cancelled a visit. Over the ensuing months, there were no further high level visits. Last month, it was reported that Cameron had dropped a planned trip to Beijing because there were no promises he would be met at the right level. In view of the warm reception accorded earlier in the month to President Francois Hollande, this would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
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.
Even former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s sternest critics (and the days after her death have shown just how many there are) should be able to concede one point about her legacy: she gave us plenty to argue about. Did she save an ungovernable Britain from the grip of the unions, or unleash an unparalleled wave of self-absorbed consumerism that reached its crescendo in the financial meltdown of 2008? Was she a good European who fought for an EU that concentrated on the areas where it mattered, or an exemplar of the pesky British habit of sticking a spoke through the wheels of European progress?
For those Brits still thrashing out these arguments as her funeral took place today, the debate is more or less inexhaustible. But whatever side people find themselves on, the arguments all stem from Thatcher’s recognition that times had changed and her resolve to do something about it, and that is something that Europe’s leaders could learn from today.
By Lord Chris Smith, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Chris Smith is a member of Britain’s House of Lords and a former Secretary of State for Culture and Media in the Tony Blair government. The views expressed are his own.
When Margaret Thatcher famously stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street following her first election victory in 1979, she quoted the great prayer of St Francis, and said “where there is discord let us bring harmony.” Eleven years of discord later, she left office and left a country that was better in some ways but worse in many others. But no one could say that she hadn’t been very clear and determined about what she was doing and why she was doing it.
She believed in some very simple principles, learned at her father’s side in the grocer’s shop in Grantham: a free market, small government, unbridled competition, and the value of individual effort over the common bonds of society. All of this, of course, finds a ready echo these days in parts of the Republican Party in the United States. She believed in the free competitive striving of individuals (whatever the consequences for others); she did not believe in the responsibility of society to support and nurture and make possible the wellbeing of the individuals within it.
By Luke Coffey, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Luke Coffey is the Thatcher Fellow in the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and a former special adviser in the Cameron government. The views expressed are his own.
Margaret Thatcher’s career made one thing clear: she loved America and what it stands for. Her commitment to the principles embraced by the founding fathers made her a transformative prime minister for Britain and an inspirational leader for freedom-loving peoples throughout the world.
Before Thatcher came to power in 1979, Britain was widely dismissed as the “sick man of Europe.” The British economy was in dire straits. Key industries were state-owned and increasingly unprofitable. Militant labor unions wielded dangerous amounts of influence. For far too many Britons, hard work simply did not pay off.
Thatcher knew that this had to change. More importantly, she knew that she was the one who could change it.
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.
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article published in February 2013.
Last year, President Barack Obama announced that he now supports same-sex marriage, setting off a new round of debate in the U.S. over the issue. His support came on the heels of North Carolina voting to implement a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in two cases that will have major implications for gay rights in America. One case looks at whether voters can block same sex marriage, as was the case with California's Proposition 8. The other looks at the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. That act was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, who said recently that he regretted the decision. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has announced her support for gay marriage, saying "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights."
But where around the world is same-sex marriage legal, where is legislation likely to happen next – and where is it criminalized?