European Council on Foreign Relations

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This crisis is a political crisis

In the world of journalism there’s an adage: ‘dog bites man’ is not a story; ‘man bites dog’ is. In the same vein it can be argued that ‘politician fails to be honest’ is not a story, whereas ‘politician is bluntly honest’ is so unusual there’s got to be a story in it.

A week or so ago this happened in Britain. Louise Mensch, a Conservative MP, was contacted by an investigative journalist who asked about her time while working at EMI records in the 1990s. Among other things, the investigator asked whether she "took drugs with Nigel Kennedy at Ronnie Scott's in Birmingham, including dancing on a dance floor, whilst drunk, with Mr Kennedy, in front of journalists". Here’s part of her reply:

"Although I do not remember the specific incident, this sounds highly probable. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Nigel Kennedy, whom I remember with affection. Additionally, since I was in

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Lada Rivas and utopian economic visions

I once tried to buy a four-wheel-drive car in Sarajevo. I thought about buying a Serbian-made Lada Riva, a no-frills tractor-like workhorse that could make light work of a ploughed field in a monsoon. “Don’t,” said a wheeler-dealer Bosnian Serb contact of mine, who owned an unlikely restaurant complex on an industrial estate and wore cheap leather jackets. “I thought about it once, but I am married and have enough troubles in my life without a Riva.” He was right.* The Riva was the epitome of Soviet engineering – rugged (because it had to be with Russian roads that turned to quicksand twice a year in the rasputitsa season), fixable with a hammer and a bit of banging, and otherwise actually rather badly built. I was told the petrol gauge was especially faulty, and owners had to get used to estimating how many miles they’d covered on each tank to avoid spluttering to a halt in the

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The British position: ‘this will not end well’

I've just read a very important blog piece that follows on from a very important interview. Thanks to two of the best journalists out there - David Rennie of the Economist and George Parker of the FT - we have a crystalisation of the newly evolved British position on the (increasingly embattled) European Union. It's also something that tells us a lot about the various competing forces within the EU itself.

From the FT we have an interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne:

“I think we have to accept that greater eurozone integration is necessary to make the single currency work and that is very much in our national interest,” he says. “We should be prepared to let that happen.”

Mr Osborne admits this flies in the face of traditional British policy, which has always suspected such a union as being the precursor of an elite group of EU members, which

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Why Europe’s politicians look so stressed

Two interesting things popped up in this morning's reading regarding the financial crisis.

Firstly, an extremely useful blog post from Stanley Pignal at the Financial Times. We all know that beyond talk of speculators and debt levels there have been significant imbalances in the Eurozone. These imbalances became the faultlines that the economic crisis has now split open.  

Stanley (with the help of Mael Guilhon) pulls together a few worrying statistics from the World Bank regarding the ease of doing business in various European countries. Here’s the spreadsheet of their data, and here are a few choice statistics:

  1. In Italy it takes 1,210 days to enforce a contract, and this will involve paying around 1/3 of the costs of the contract in legal fees. In Luxembourg this will take 321 days.
  2. On the World Bank rankings of the ‘ease of doing business’ around the world, Italy

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Beyond the crisis

Let's face it, nobody really knows where the real impact of the economic crisis is going to be. I'm not talking about the short term - much of that, from the spread of contagion to debt defaults - is guessable if not predictable. I'm talking about what lies beyond. What will Europe be like once this has settled down, or at least settled into enough of a stable equilibrium to allow us to take stock of what's left?

We've just set up a new section on our website where we'll gather analysis and thoughts about where Europe is heading, and the ideas that keep us a vital part of the 21st century - 'The reinvention of Europe'. We'd like to hear your views too, on any articles, blog posts, or via Facebook and Twitter.

Put in simple terms, it seems that the model that has underpinned European integration since the fall of the Berlin Wall has run its course, at least in this incarnation.

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