European Council on Foreign Relations

Summer reading recommendations from ECFR staff

Anyone interested in the future of the European Union should read Wolfgang Streeck’s book Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, which was much discussed in Germany when it was originally published in 2013 and has just come out in English. Streeck describes the financial crisis that began in the autumn of 2008 as merely the most recent stage in a longer crisis in democratic capitalism that goes back to the end of the post-war settlement in the 1970s. For Streeck, the paradigmatic case in the latest phase of this counter-revolution by capital is the EU, which he describes as a kind of Hayekian Utopia in which liberalised capital is immunising itself from democratic control.

The Embassy of Cambodia is a wonderful little short story about immigrants in north-west London, where the eponymous embassy is bizarrely located and where I (and the author) live – perfect

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Fixing Europe

The word on the streets (or at least in the offices) in Brussels seems to be that the euro crisis is over, and that now all that is needed is a patching up job to make sure things do not happen the same way again. But are those who say it's over really just being complacent, and does that mean that something more fundamental than a patching up job is needed?

John Peet, the Europe editor at The Economist, and a great friend of ECFR, has co-authored a book that examines exactly these questions (with Anton La Guardia, The Economist's Charlemagne columnist). The book is called "Unhappy Union: How the euro crisis – and Europe – can be fixed", and it carries some blunt words for those that the authors believe are being rather too complacent about Europe and the euro crisis.

We've put together a couple of podcasts exploring the ideas in the book, following a Black Coffee Morning in

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George Soros Q&A part 1

I've just uploaded the first in a short series (two or three in total) of podcasts with George Soros answering questions from assorted journalists at ECFR's London office. Mr Soros was in the building for a press conference for his new book, "The tragedy of the European Union: disintegration or revival?", chaired by Mark Leonard.

The questions ranged widely on every subject from Mrs Merkel's approach to the euro to the Chinese economy. Here is this first podcast:

The issues covered in this chunk of the press conference concerned: Germany's solutions to the euro crisis; Scottish independence; the UK's winning strategy of non-euro EU membership; whether the markets or governments would bring stability to the system; central bank stimulus; and the dangers of anti-EU populism in debtor countries.

More soon!

A chunky listen on Russia

 

On my train home last night I listened to an audio podcast from the Economist that pretty much wrapped up all the big issues in Russian-EU relations in eight and a half chunky minutes. It was with Arkady Ostrovsky, the Economist's Moscow correspondent. Here's the audio, and here are the main subjects:

* Merkel ambushing Putin by criticising his crackdown on NGOs, and what it means for relations between Russia and the EU.

* The nexus between Russia, power and money.

* German business scepticism about investing in Russia.

* Why Cyprus shows how much Russia has been disregarded.

* Why it all goes back to US shale gas and how this has loosened Russia's energy grip on Europe.

* Is Berlusconi Putin's only remaining friend?

* Navalny and Pussy Riot.

Anyway, have a listen - 8'34" isn't enough for great depth, but Arkady does a great job of joining the dots between these

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The Obamians

 

This is a book review of The Obamians: the Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power by James Mann. It first appeared in The New Statesman

Shortly after his inauguration as president, Barack Obama was given a briefing by the CIA about the danger of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. “That’s scary,” said Obama, “but in the meeting I had before this one, the Treasury told me that every bank could fail before the end of the month. Now that’s really scary.” This anecdote shows the central point of James Mann’s book, which tries to paint a portrait of the 44th president’s foreign policy through the prism of his relationships with his closest advisers.

For Obama and the youthful “Obamians”, the world began in 2001 with 9/11, which was followed by the Iraq war and the financial crisis. For them, the events that traumatised most foreign

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