Monday, February 17, 2014

Rethinking Transatlanticism: Toward a New Transatlantic Narrative

This just in: a policy paper I helped write has earned an Honorable Mention in the Young Writers Award of the Brussels Forum, organized by the German Marshall Fund. The competition included over 80 other papers.

Co-created with EU affairs professional Christofer Berg, the paper, titled "Rethinking Transatlanticism: Toward a New Transatlantic Narrative," offers a set of policy objectives to address the opportunities (and risks) of tomorrow's transatlantic agenda. 

I'll spare you the details, but here is the rough sketch of the piece's content and message:

"When Harry Met Sally: A Policy Partnership with Great Promise"
"Gone with the Wind: How Cooperation Risks Being Undermined"
"Back to the Future: Creating a Common Narrative for Transatlanticism"
"The Magnificent Seven: Concrete Actions to Renew the Transatlantic Narrative"

This last section offers seven bullet-style policy recommendations for the furtherance of a new and enhanced transatlantic narrative to carry a like-minded West into the 21st century. They are:
" - Encourage the transatlantic media landscape"

" - Avoid speaking to Americans and Europeans as though they were from different planets, along 'Mars vs. Venus' lines"

" - Ride the wave of new technology by embracing social networks like Facebook and Twitter"

" - Create a story for a “modern transatlanticism” through rhetoric"

" - Lift up people that can be the ‘faces of transatlanticism' "

" - Bring people together" through exchange programs, young leaders conferences, etc.

" - Connect the dots. Show that how we cooperate on trade, defense, and diplomacy is part of a wider common vision"

So, happy reading. The full paper is available here

Saturday, February 1, 2014

TTIP: Cautious optimism despite resistance in Congress

My latest op-ed goes over some of the politicking around the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, which could provide a historical boost to the economic ties that bind the U.S. and Europe.

But that's only if TTIP passes. President Obama spent some time on the trade agenda in this week's State of the Union address. Yet the very next day, leaders of his own party, including Harry Reid, the House of Representatives' Majority Leader, came out against it. The op-ed's subtitle (which I did not write) points the finger at conservative Members of Congress and thought leaders, but many in the Democratic party have opposed the bill on grounds that it will threaten labor and environmental interests, among other concerns.

What's at stake is an intermediary piece of legislation whose passage would open the doors of opportunity for TTIP, as well as for a U.S.-Asian trade deal that is also in the works. Called the Trade Promotion Authority, or "Fast Track" for short, the new framework would guarantee expedient passage so that TTIP could move more easily through Congress. The problem is, more expedient means no amending the bill. Some American lawmakers are loath to grant this kind of carte blanche to Fast Track, while if they don't, Europeans will not likely negotiate in good faith. And why would they? If anything they agree might be subject to change by Washington, wouldn't you hedge your bets, too?

Here are a few of the reasons I see a mandate for cautious optimism in forthcoming TTIP processes on the U.S. side:

"Hailed by some as potentially the largest trade agreement in history, TTIP would reduce trade barriers by enacting a non-tariff paradigm in which myriad public- and private-sector players could spur growth, create jobs, and do business in markets previously inaccessible.
"TTIP’s promises have not won all hearts, however. Detractors see the deal as a menace to their own interests, even to national sovereignty. TTIP could also fail on purely procedural grounds: given recent resistance to legislation on the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) framework, the US Congress inspires only mild confidence.
"Strategically, the potential benefit is just as strong: TTIP would establish a Western-oriented economic system of consequence, push the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis decisively into the past and provide the most unified transatlantic response to global competition in decades.
"Yet, detractors pose significant obstacles to the deal’s passage. TTIP’s opponents hail from a broad spectrum of interest groups and experts, some of whom warn against any compromise of national sovereignty.
"Instead, organizations like the Heritage Foundation vouch for “mutual recognition rather than regulatory harmonization,” which would rule out the possibility of a “transatlantic managed market” seen as detrimental to US economic and political autonomy. Likewise, advocates for labor unions, farm subsidies and intellectual property stipulations have each expressed reservations that threaten a comprehensive transatlantic trade program.
"Hurdles in the US Congress could also pose challenges, which means international-level concerns may be moot if the United States fails to rally consensus at home. A bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives has voiced opposition to new TPA legislation, saying they are not being consulted adequately on the negotiations underway, and that a new TPA might deny Congress its constitutional right to review trade agreements.
"In December 2013, 194 House members from the same group signed a letter to President Obama expressing their view that “Fast Track is simply not appropriate for 21st century agreements and must be replaced.” If the number of members of Congress opposed to TTIP should grow, odds for the deal’s passage will shrink proportionally."

Here's hoping.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sweet EU Data Viz in Spanish? No Problemo

I've just discovered, a pretty sweet place to window-shop for data visualization and maps, like the one below on youth unemployment. Light blue equals jobs, and dark blue equals fewer jobs. And who cares if the site is in Spanish? Looks like site founder Gonzalo Prieto is on to something universal. 

This page features "Twelve Maps to Better Understand the European Union." (At least, that's what I think it says.)

Also check out the 25 or so most connected Twitter users among global foreign affairs leaders, within and beyond the EU. This map is on Prieto's site, but it originally came from Burson Marsteller's Twiplomacy practice.

Monday, January 20, 2014

U.S. to the EU: Here's Looking at You, Kid

Just a few comparisons between the Old and New Worlds: on quality of universities (apparently, OneEurope thinks U.S. schools are way better than European ones), and an uber-general piece from CafeBabel, "What Do Americans Think About Europe?" Despite its gaping generality, it does feature this sort-of redeeming map of U.S. stereotypes of Europe.

EU's "Public Sphere" is Taking Shape

In spite of everything, Europe may be gelling, after all. 

Nosemonkey has suggested that the EU may be developing a public sphere, solidifying a pan-European public opinion, even after events like the euro crisis, global financial tumult, and the rise of euroskeptic parties across Europe threaten to shake the still-fresh institutions trying to establish a robust European project. 

The blog's creator, James Clive-Matthews, defends the right of euroskeptics to freely speak their minds against the European Union's advances -- and all that, as a part of the European marketplace of ideas, through which engagement from ordinary citizens is essential. Even, it turns out, if those who count among the most engaged are those most opposed to the project's advancement. What an ironic picture of civic duty. 

Hats off to you, then, Nosemonkey -- and to the euroskeptics who prove the vibrancy of the democratic ideal playing out through the passionate discussions to which they contribute. 

This post maps the growing EU public sphere in digital form -- thanks, Tony Lockett.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bright and Dim Spots on Europe's Periphery

The last week has been marked by some good, some bad, and some downright absurd news items in the European enlargement and foreign policy dossiers.

The Economist described Vladimir Putin as deserving "the highest medal of Ukraine," in a claim that the Russian leader has done more to rally the Ukrainian political elite toward a westward outlook than any other figure.

Radek Sikorski, the prime minister of Poland, agrees. "“Ukraine is on the final lap, and it must double its efforts and finish off the job…we’ve done it, so can you,” he said in a conference at Yalta recently. The historical poignancy of that statement, made in the same city that witnessed the 1945 decision to carve up much of the European continent, was likely lost on no one there. 

The EUObserver cited Mr. Sikorski last week as a potential next-in-line for Catherine Ashton's job as EU foreign policy chief.

Ukraine's westward shift seems not a moment too soon: Russia has been exerting pressure on its former satellites to join its economic union, along with Bulgaria and Moldova. Armenia has already caved, with recent announcements confirming it will look to Moscow for energy support.

So, a little good, a little bad. The absurd comes from the government of Italy, newly entrusted to Prime Minister Enrico Letta awarded citizenship posthumously to some of the African migrants who died in the capsizing of their boat near Lampedusa. The survivors, meanwhile, still hold illegal status. 

The world's strivers hoping to migrate to Europe must be wondering, on the road to a better life and European-style prosperity, do they have to die to earn it? 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back to Bipolar: Syria Dominated by American, Russian Positions

The frenzy of diplomatic and media activity around the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria has produced two, and only two, approaches. The Russians have opposed the idea of airstrikes, which until this week was President Obama's frontrunning policy option. Global opinion has largely opposed it, while John Kerry's off-the-cuff remark about orchestrating a chemical weapons seizure has now become the U.S. administration's official goal in the matter. 

Prior to this week's about-face from the State Department and the White House, EurAmerican was intrigued to see just how bipolar the world seemed on the Syrian dossier. Observers from California to Caracas were forced to make a choice between the two positions set by the U.S. and Russia. The American position, initially for what Sec. Kerry dubbed an "unbelievably small" aerial intervention, brought to mind the mistakes of the Iraq War. President Obama tried, with little success, to assuage the fears of the American public and anti-airstrike partisans worldwide. President Vladimir Putin led an obstructionist charge from the UN Security Council, providing an alternative an cynical option to let the bloodshed in Syria continue. 

What were the world's other options? Were there other options, floated by the European Union, China, the BRICS? If there were any, they didn't penetrate the international media space, and they haven't stuck to the wall since.

The  world may be less bipolar than during the Cold War, but judging by the last several weeks, few other powers edged in to provide a third way through the diplomatic gridlock. Action is needed urgently. What hangs in the balance is a swelling refugee crisis in every one of Syria's neighbor countries, as well as the credibility of national administrations in the U.S., Europe, and international organizations like the UN. And that doesn't mention the justice owed to the 110,000 Syrians killed so far.


The Wall Street Journal published this morning a menu of opinions from thought leaders on the Syria crisis. The one bearing the sharpest tone came from Josef Joffe, a Europe specialist at the Hoover Institution. He makes the case for continuing a vigorous exercise of American power abroad, especially as it concerns the comparative reticence of the next-most powerful Western forces to curb bloodshed in places like Syria. Mr. Joffe makes historical and modern connections to Europe that bear repeating: 

"In Europe, Clausewitz is either dying (Britain and France) or dead (Germany and the rest). Recall the famous counsel of the Prussian general: "War is the continuation of policy with other means"—that is, with force.
"Germany, the loser of two world wars, cut this seamless web in 1945, followed by all those former warrior nations from Spain to Sweden. Force as tool of statecraft? Heaven forfend! Europe shall be an "empire of peace." Britain and France, ex-imperial powers both, are going down the same road. David Cameron was trashed by Parliament when he asked for a war resolution on Syria. France's François Hollande would suffer the same fate if he went to the National Assembly.
"In his heart, Mr. Obama also would like to ditch Clausewitz, as he signaled in his Tuesday speech. He would like to turn the U.S. into an XXL medium-power. He wants to unshoulder the burden of global leadership and to drag the U.S. out of harm's way. As in Europe, his priority is welfare rather than warfare—"nation-building at home." If it has to be force, it must be on the cheap—"limited" and "narrow." Mr. Obama is probably as grateful as Mr. Assad for the reprieve cooked up by the Russians, who want to save the despot at all cost. Ms. Merkel and Messrs. Cameron and Hollande are delighted as well. There is now no shame in hanging back.
"There is just one problem, and it is bigger than to strike or not. Or to extract well-hidden chemical weapons from a war zone the size of Oklahoma. The U.S. is not an XXL medium-power but the housekeeper of the world. If it outsources the job, there is nobody else—not Europe, Russia or China. And the vandals are watching."

EurAmerican agrees.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Russia and Religion

... After a year without posting, EurAmerican is back. I thought I'd share a pair of interesting posts on religious news in Russia.

The Cossacks are again inspiring awe, fear, and obedience to the law in southwestern Russia. Are they pushing to far, as some are calling for ethnic "filters" against Muslims and other ethnic minorities? A great photo diary that accompanies this piece, both courtesy of the New York Times.

The Economist reports on religious freedom in the former Soviet Union, where hopes for greater religious toleration in a post-Communist era have dimmed. The Orthodox church enjoys only 2 to 3 percent of regular attendance by the Russian populace, says reporter and author Geraldine Fagan.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Serbia becomes newest EU candidate

The EU has named Serbia its most recent candidate for membership, France24 reports. In a summit in Brussels on March 2, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy called the step "a remarkable achievement." 

Now will come the real work, according to many observers, which will involve stubborn disagreements on the country's relationship with Kosovo, and over lingering feelings from the international community toward Serbia. The new candidate was largely seen as a pariah state, responsible for much of the bloodshed in the Balkan region throughout the 1990s.

“The EU is gradually dismantling the Balkans-shaped bomb lying right next to it,” said Daniel Korski, a senior-level analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London.

Now for a tone change: check out my story on a day spent in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, published this week on the travel website Here's an excerpt:

"Petar poured juice into two green glasses and sat down across from me on the couch. I worked up the nerve to ask him about the wars of the 1990s, whether Serbia’s bloody past was having any bearing on his life now.

“It has a daily effect,” Petar said. “I still think about it all the time. Everyone does. Time has passed, my generation is now working and starting families, but it’s part of our lives, as if it were still happening. Now, for example, when I have money, I ask myself, ‘Should I buy groceries? Should I save it? Or can I buy this television, this computer program, get my car fixed?’ This type of thinking comes from war.”
He said it made no sense to brood over the past. “Sadness turns to anger,” he continued, “and anger ruins your life.”
I couldn’t believe his candor, his eloquence. I wanted to express my gratitude but just then his cell phone beeped. It was a text message from his girlfriend. “She wants to meet you,” he said. “I have an idea.”
Petar told me to shower and take some medicine for my stomach. In the meanwhile he made sandwiches. He called his girlfriend back and made arrangements for us to pick her up.
Before we headed out the door, he turned to me. “One other thing about the future,” he said, “about this after-war life we’re living here. We Serbians, we have this crazy will, this crazy will, and when we want to do something, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is we do it. Look at Novak Djokovic.”
“The tennis player?”
“Twenty-one years old and top three in the world,” he said. “No fancy facilities, no amazing coach, just that crazy Serbian will. Know that. That’s Serbia too.”

Did you like this story? Hate it? Let me know in the comments section. Watch this space for more excerpts from this story and others.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Youth unemployment exceeds 30 percent in eight member states


Nothing to add here, just a title I thought was as worthy of sharing as it is frightening. From EUobserver:

"Youth unemployment rates surpass 30 percent in Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain, the European Commission said on Tuesday (31 January). Eurostat figures show that in December 2011, the youth unemployment rate was 22.1 percent in the EU27 up from 21.0 percent in 2010."