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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Netanyahu misjudges the risks of his Gaza strategy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Defense ministry in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on 11 July 2014. © EPA European Pressphoto Agency B.V. / Alamy

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has a Gaza problem but it is not what you might think. The siren alarms sounding in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa with each new salvo of rockets fired from Gaza terrify and disrupt. However, the rockets have been managed by Israel’s missile defence system. Since launching its offensive, Israel has thankfully suffered no casualties. Losses will remain low as long as there is no ground offensive.

In military terms, Israel’s supremacy is guaranteed as much in this round of fighting as in the winter of 2008-09 and November 2012. It has one of the world’s most sophisticated armies, by comparison with which the capacity of Hamas-controlled

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How EU would lift Iran sanctions after nuclear deal

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and Vice President of the EC at the latest round of the E3+3 nuclear talks in Vienna, July 2014. CC EEAS / Flickr

One week into the marathon talks underway in Vienna between the the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran, speculation has started to emerge as to what a comprehensive agreement on the long-outstanding nuclear issue would entail in terms of obligations and concessions for Tehran, with the issue of sanctions being one of the sticking points in the negotiations.

In the past days, the two sides seem to have agreed that, in exchange for verifiable curbs on the Iranian nuclear program, phased, comprehensive sanctions relief would be part of a long-term agreement. The deal would progressively unwind the complex and multilayered legislation imposed

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The growing refugee crisis in Ukraine

Behind the headline grabbing annexation of Crimea, separatist incursions in the Donbass and consequent “anti-terror operation” has been a growing humanitarian crisis that has been rapidly increasing in severity in the last month: there are now tens of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) and the number is rising. These are Ukrainians who felt they had no choice but to leave their homes, often taking little with them, unsure when they might return. After losing many towns in recent days, separatist commanders have now pulled back their men to the two big Eastern cities themselves, Luhansk and Donetsk, threatening another Stalingrad. It’s hard to even imagine the worst case scenario, but even should victory come fast to the Ukrainian army, it could take a long time to reintegrate those who have left: another challenge the new authorities In Kyiv could not have been prepared

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A subtle change in Merkel’s tone on China

On the surface, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s seventh visit to China was business as usual. The usual deals were made – for example, Volkswagen and its state-owned Chinese partner FAW agreed to build two new assembly plants in the east coast cities of Tianjin and Qingdao. Accompanied by the usual delegation of business leaders, Merkel went to Chengdu, the capital of the south-western province of Sichuan, and visited an existing Volkswagen production plant there. The Chinese government has been promoting Chengdu as a major hub for investment and a leader in urbanisation. German companies such as Volkswagen seem to think they can cash in and repeat inland the success they have had on the coast.

In fact, German business seems to be getting even more demanding. In a draft document leaked during the trip, the Chinese-German Economic Advisory Committee (DCBWA), an organisation that lobbies

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