European Council on Foreign Relations

Berlin notebook: a placebo for Europe’s youth

Angela Merkel has invited European labour ministers to come to Berlin and discuss youth unemployment. This is despite last week’s European summit having youth unemployment as a central issue - but Berlin, of course, is the new Brussels. (And what about Vilnius? After all, Lithuania has just taken over the EU presidency.) What better evidence could there be that the EU Summit was clearly a low profile gathering, showing a lack of both ambition and answers.

Factually, the EU’s Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), which aims to support young people in regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25 percent, will become fully operational by January 2014, and the €8 billion allocated to this in the multi-annual budget will be frontloaded in 2014-2015).

The EU will promote mobility among young job-seekers through the “Your First EURES Job” programme, which aims to help some 5,000 people

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€ view: Why can’t you just all be a little more German?

When discussing the German role in the euro-crisis these days in Berlin, relevant policy makers usually argue that Germany is willing to do all what it will take to save the euro. When guest from abroad raise their eyebrows (as they might have perceived the German position differently before), German representatives are quick to add that, however, the crisis countries have to do first what is in their power to overcome their problems. Only when full efforts have been made, Germany can be expected to pitch in. Needless to say, that the partners’ efforts so far are seen as insufficient.

This position fits nicely into the narrative that we Germans have undertaken very comprehensive and painful reforms in the 2000s and that the current good economic situation in Germany is the reward for these struggles. Implicit to this narrative is that Greece, Spain or Portugal have just not made

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Making austerity less destructive: Don’t count on the German left

While everyone looks for signals from the French president François Hollande and from the German chancellor Angela Merkel about how a compromise on the fiscal compact might look like, another important negotiation on the future of Europe is largely ignored: The negotiation between Ms Merkel and the German opposition on the fiscal compact.

Little known outside Germany, Ms Merkel will need the votes of the German opposition to ratify the fiscal compact. As the provisions are “a substantial transfer of sovereignty” to the European level, according to the German constitution, Ms Merkel needs a two-third majority in both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat (the chamber which represents the Länder). This brings not only the Social Democrats into play, but also the Green party (which shares power in many Länder with the Social Democrats and is thus needed as Länder governments) the

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Reinventing Europe: Tibor Dessewffy on populism in Hungary

As part of ECFR's Reinvention project, we are running a series of blog posts looking at particular thematic issues facing Europe as it attempts to deal with the financial crisis. In the first in this series, Tibor Dessewffy examines the attraction of populist politics in Hungary.


In his paper on future scenarios for Europe, Mark Leonard convincingly argues that the major tensions in both the European and the domestic arenas are between technocratic and populist forces. The financial crisis has certainly led to a more integrated technocratic system of crisis management, but the uncertainty over whether measures to control the crisis will succeed is also creating support for populist forces.

The public reception to populist claims varies greatly across Europe. In Hungary, for instance, a speech was given in March arguing that “We will not be a colony”. This speech, however, was

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€ view: Is Germany’s love for brutal austerity waning?

This week, I was invited to a public hearing on the economic impact of the euro crisis held at the German Bundestag. These hearings in the German Bundestag are a very peculiar exercise. Each party represented in the Bundestag is allowed to propose some experts who are then invited by the Bundestag administration. In addition, several other stakeholders are invited. As this particular hearing took place in the finance committee of the Bundestag, among the groups represented were the German employers’ federation, the federation of German unions and the Bundesbank.

In my hearing, there were also well known (rather conservative) German economists such as Clemens Fuest, designated head of the Mannheim ZEW institute and Claudia Buch, a member of the German council of economic advisors. From the progressive side, there were people like Gustav Horn the director of the Dusseldorf based

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