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6 May Election Day

IN the year with highest number of elections, today 6 may is the polling day of the year. There are elections in France, Greece, Armenia and 2 votes in Serbia. There are regional elections in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, which will test the strength of the incumbent chancellor Merkel to win elections before the federal ones next year.

6 May is an important day for Europe as it will show to what extend the family of the European People’s Party  will retain its dominance across the 27 member states. This is paramount for the political set up in Europe and the difficult decisions that are still to be taken to solve the euro crisis. For now, the France-German axis was the engine of the decisions and not least this rested on the centre-right parties that are in power in the big two. Or were.

The odds are high that Nicolas Sarkozy will out of office after today’s vote. Perhaps the French will never forgive him for the extravagant behavior in the first half of his term. Even though he changed his communication and wrote several books over the last year, he still does not behave presidential, i.e. a little like a monarch in l’Elysee.

More importantly however, Sarkozy did not have the winning strategy for the election. He was convincing, he had great speeches and mobilized totally the UMP vote. But he made a major mistake when he hardened his discourse on Europe and adopted anti-immigrant stance that rather made him look too radical for many French voters. It was natural that the current president tries to snatch abig chunk of the vote of Front National (Marine Le Pen won 18% on the first round) However his team of advisors did not realize that the people who voted for the french far-right id so not because of the policies articulated by Le Pen, but out of disappointment with the current political elite. Thus by turning to the far right rethoric Sarkozy alienated the centrist voters. This became evident when a few days ago Francois Bayrou. And will determine the result, expected in about an hour from now.

Francois Holland seems to me a very pragmatic man and I hope his presidency will not be like his campaign. The socialists do not have a great (if any ) economic program. In the debate last Wednesday with Sarkozy the former socialist senator and leader of PS mumbled about his plans how to reduce the deficit and the debt of France. Instead, Holland insisted on creating 60 000 new jobs in the state administration and imposing a 75% tax on the rich. The tax by the way, according to Holland himself is total nonsense fiscally (see interviews from January 2011).

Instead, what the next French president should focus on is primarily creating economic policies, solving the long-term fiscal problems and making labour market as well as budgetary reforms in order to give a boost to the French economy. The state should not be an employer of last resort.

So far Holland seems to me like an old school spend-a-lot socialist and behaves rather like a populist when it comes to the real issues of France- he is compassionate with the worries of the French, bit does not seem well-armed to solve the problems from which they stem. He fails to articulate clear policies except his call for a growth pact (and socialists of his party understand growth mainly as public spending).

But Mr. Holland is a witty man. He has managed to keep away from far-fetching promises. He also succeeded in turning the whole presidential campaign into a referendum for Sarkozy’s tenure. Indeed, the incumbent president was alone against 9 other candidates and was the challenger throughout the whole process with Holland clearly considered more likely to win from the outset.

I hope when elected Mr. Holland gets as pragmatic in his policies as he was during the campaign. He should under no circumstances use his (likely) parliamentary majority – legislative elections are in June- to block the referendum of the Fiscal Compact. This is paramount for the Future of Europe!

France holds a key position between the fiscally rigorous north and the lax on spending south. IF France drops the policies aimed at solving the euro crisis may bring yet another disaster to the EU and its member states.

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Pooling and Sharing – another lesson from Europe’s North

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently I came across an interesting piece of information: eight countries from Europe’s north are pooling resources… diplomatic resources. As the political integration in other fields is staggering, notably in economic governance, foreign, security and defence policy, small countries without ambitions to rule over the continent may have found the right formula. It is not the first time Nordic and Baltic EU member states pool resources. Over the last few years they have been joining forces to form early warning systems and joint air patrols, just to mention a few.

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Pooling, Sharing and European Defence Integration

July 13, 2011 1 comment

Photo: AP

The hot potato these days in Security and Defence debates in the EU is “pooling and sharing“. Refered to as “smart defence” in the NATO circle, this term refers to using common existing or planner resources to provide defence capabilities at the disposal of several member states. Triggered by the more and more political nature of the EU and its Foreign Policy, the process got a boost because of the severe cuts in defence spending as a result of the crisis. Many countries, especially the smaller and newer member states, but also military giants like the UK, are forced to discontinue procurement programs or to decommission capabilities. Worse, for political reasons governments often cut funding for Research and Technology thus shooting themselves in the foot in the long run.

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EU presents Energy Strategy

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment

A few days ago EU Commissioner for Energy Guenter Oettinger unveiled the new EU Energy Strategy. It is long overdue and I expect it heralds serious commitment on supra-national level to tackle the energy problems that Europe faces. And they are not one and two in the field of policy, politics, technology and the related effects for the environment.

The strategy has 5 key priorities as well as a number of action points that if developed and implemented correctly can make a lot of difference for the lives of the 500 million EU citizens.

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As bad as it can get

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Westerwelle and Erdogan in Turkey

 

It is not about Turkey – it is about Germany. If you were someone in government appointing        the head of the judiciary, half of the members of the upper house, the commanders of all the armed forces, Friday prayer leaders and the head of radio and TV you would be Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. Nowadays this is a bad thing in Europe and in the US. But if you were a president of another country appointing 14 out of the 17 Constitutional judges, it is ok. Or is it ? 

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Conservatives in Office

May 17, 2010 Leave a comment

David Cameron is the new UK Primer Minister

He went to school in Eton, graduated from Oxford with honours degree. He was a special advisor in John Major’s government as well as a chairman of Aston Villa Football Club. He became an MP at 31 and at 39 led the conservative shadow government as the newly-elected leader of the Conservative party. Now David Cameron is the youngest British Prime minister in 198 years and the only one to govern the country with a coalition government after the Second World War.

 

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Ashton’s Foreign Policy: Introduction*

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

They call her ‘a person without experience’ and ‘the lowest common denominator’. But she is not. Catherine Ashton is a very ambitious professional politician. She is the hope of Europe for a stronger engagement with the world and more efficient European Foreign Policy. She is the one who ought to have vision for a new set up of EU’s external relations. But does ‘ought to’ mean ‘can’ in this case. Can she have such a vision, or will this be the one of 1-2 national capitals or a closed circle, which has been thinking of the new European External Action Service for years before the job was handed to Ashton in November 2009?

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