Illegal Immigration and the EU – Action on the Horizon? (2/21)

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By: Hannah Morris, Editorial Assistant

During the first week of February, Italy’s navy rescued over one thousand illegal migrants from boats just southeast of the island of Lampedusa in a period of just 24 hours. In January alone, two thousand illegal migrants landed in Italy, ten times the number of arrivals in January 2013. In the third quarter of 2013, a total of 42,600 illegal immigrants arrived in the EU, almost double the number compared to 2012.[1] Unsurprisingly, the swelling numbers of illegal immigrants, whether coming from North Africa or the Middle East, is causing great concern among EU lawmakers, member state leaders and their citizens.

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Turkey and the EU (2/10)

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By Michael Mosettig, Former Foreign Editor, PBS News Hour

Given  the cascade of political and economic problems descending on both the European Union and Turkey, perhaps it is surprising that either remains even  somewhat interested in exploring a deeper relationship, probably one that does not result anytime soon in Turkish membership in the EU.
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Germany’s Role in the World—President Joachim Gauck (1/31)

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(Editors Note—We reprint below, and in its entirety, the extraordinary speech given by German President Joachim Gauck to open the 50th Munich Security Conference.)

Munich, 31 January 2014joachimgauck

Translation of advance text

The speech:

The five decades of the Munich Security Conference mirror a large part of the Federal Republic’s history: from the defence of the West to global governance and from military science to a comprehensive security concept. What a sweeping arc! When this Conference first took place here in Munich, the country and its capital were divided and living under the shadow of the nuclear threat. Today we have to deal with new tensions and new wars: between states, within states, close to home and far away.

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Clara Marina O’Donnell: Sad Loss of Champion for Transatlantic Defense (1/24)

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By Brian Beary, Washington Correspondent, Europolitics

claraodonnellClara O’Donnell, a European in every good sense of the word, departed this world on January 16 at the tragically young age of 30. In her too short life, Clara accomplished a great deal: both as remarkably gifted human being who lit up every room she entered, and as an accomplished scholar of the transatlantic community.

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“Crowdfunding“ — New Tool for EU Start-Up Financing (1/23)

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By James Spellman, Principal Strategic Communcations, LLC

Alternative financing portals are proliferating throughout the European Union as more and more investors put their toes in the water of a new generation of high-risk start-ups they hope become a Skype, Rovio or Storify one day. With interest growing exponentially, though, questions are emerging about the adequacy of investor protections that new national regulations plan to address. The challenge ahead is to implement such protections without burdening entrepreneurs with regulatory overkill.

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“We Have Won the Right to Hope,” Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy in DC (1/15)

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By Michael Mosettig, Former PBS Newshour Producer

The travels of Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have demonstrated anew that in politics, timing is everything.

In a week in which French President Hollande's major economic press conference was overshadowed by the fallout from his extra-curricular activities and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's State of the State speech was lost in the George Washington Bridge scandal, Rajoy came to Washington for a three-day visit   with the wind of some better economic news at his back and allowing him to proclaim to President Obama and other audiences that his beleaguered country had turned a corner.

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EU Fines Banks In Record Penalty (12/5)

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By Leah Katherine Bewley, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

The European Union is fining at least six large banks for manipulating financial benchmarks, totaling $2.3 billion. Deutsche Bank has received the largest fine of 725.36 million euros. The Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, Societe General, JPMorgan and brokerage RP Martin are also facing stiff fines. These are the most serious consequences to banks emerging from the financial crisis.

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Branding the Russian Rouble (11/26)

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Branding the Russian Rouble -- Update 12/13

And the winning symbol for the Russian rouble is:

wsj201312r

Picture from Wall Street Journal

Bank of Russia announced that 61 percent in a popular poll had chosen the Russian letter R which looks like a P in Latin script--crossed with a horizontal stripe--for its official symbol in an effort to encourage the use of the rouble internationally.

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By Leah Katherine Bewley, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

As part of the Russian effort to promote itself as a stable financial center after years of hyperinflation and devaluation, the Russian Central Bank is currently rebranding its currency, the rouble and its symbol. Until now, there has been no internationally recognized symbol for the rouble. The Kremlin is looking to increase confidence in the rouble “as a safe currency for investments and savings.”

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The Eastern Partnership Vilnius-Summit and the Battle for Ukraine (11/20)

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By Caroline Larsson, European Institute

The upcoming summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, November 28-29, will be pivotal for the future of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership, an initiative through which the EU has sought to engage with a number of former Soviet republics, who are not members of the EU. Action on the proposed EU association and trade agreements with Ukraine has become the touchstone.

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NSA Scandal: European Parliamentarians Visit (11/6)

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By Brian Beary, Washington Correspondent for Europolitics

Some two dozen members of the European Parliament (MEP)s were in Washington last week with one topic dominating their agenda: the ongoing revelations of mass U.S. government electronic surveillance of Europeans. With the National Security Agency (NSA) spy scandal continuing to grab headlines, the euro-parliamentarians had little difficulty attracting media attention. Moreover, the sharp embarrassment being felt by the US government had a further positive effect for them. While scheduling face-to-face meetings with top level U.S. officials can be a challenge, on this occasion, the parliamentarians secured numerous top level encounters. Most notably, German MEP Elmar Brok and British MEP Claude Moraes, two key figures in Parliament’s ongoing inquiry on mass government surveillance, met with General Keith Alexander, the Director of the NSA. They also had face time with Diane Feinstein, Chair of the Senate intelligence committee, who has been briefed extensively on the NSA’s activities, and with Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s top counter-terrorism policy advisor. Attendance at think tank seminars like the meeting at The European Institute, with MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht and FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, were oversubscribed.

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Bulgaria Struggles with Syrian Refugee Influx (10/29)

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By Leah Katherine Bewley, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

As the Syrian conflict rages on, the flow of refugees requires humanitarian assistance from an expanding number of neighboring countries. Bulgaria is among them. The Bulgarian Ministry of Interior has called this “the biggest refugee crisis in the country in the past 90 years.”  While Bulgaria has fewer refugees, compared to Turkey and Lebanon, it is not equipped for the number already present in the country. And that number is growing rapidly. “We have a huge increase of the number of refugees crossing the Turkish-Bulgarian border, and we are in a situation now that we can hardly manage,” said Bulgarian Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin at the European Institute last month. “We didn’t have the capacities, the expert support. So now we are in a situation where we have to react quickly and build physical as well as expert capacities…”

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EU Assesses International Aviation Emissions Deal – Glass Half Empty or Half Full (10/15)

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By Brian Beary, Washington Correspondent for Europolitics

A global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in aviation has been concluded at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal. From an EU standpoint, the deal has positives and negatives. The green light was given to create a global cap and trade system for airplane emissions, but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the EU’s highly-controversial Emissions Trading System (ETS) application to air transport.

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Turkey Does Not Want To Be Left Out From The U.S.-EU Trade Talks (10/11)

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By Selen Akses, Researcher at the Economic Development Foundation(IKV) in Istanbul    

The United States and the European Union are currently negotiating a trade agreement (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement) that would create the largest integrated market in the world, yet a key emerging player, Turkey with the world’s 16th largest economy, could be left out of the agreement. Turkey could experience a major and potentially negative impact due to its previously established Customs Union with the European Union.

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UN Climate Change Report Finds "Human Influence" Chief Cause of Global Warming (9/27)

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By Natalie Fahey, European Institute

The most important conclusion of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, released today ahead of the next UN climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland in November - is that the scientific community can now say with 95% certainty that "human influence has been the dominant cause" of global warming since the mid 20th century.  While previous assessment reports have drawn similar conclusions, NPR's Richard Harris remarks that the significance of the report is that it "underlines that the more scientists study this issue, the more confident they are that human activities are changing the planet."

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Compromise Reached Between Croatia and EU Over Extradition Squabble (9/27)

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By Leah Katherine Bewley, European Institute Editorial Assistant

Since July 1st, Croatia’s tenure as the newest member state on the European Union has been overshadowed by an open confrontation with Brussels over Zagreb’s application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Three days before official entry into the EU, the Croatian Parliament adopted changes preventing the extradition of anyone suspected of committing a crime before August 7, 2002. Unofficially known as Lex Perkovic, in reference to Josip Perkovic, the former head of Croatian intelligence, whose extradition is being sought  by Germany for his involvement in the 1983 assassination of a Croatian dissident. Croatia has received 23 extradition requests from other EU nations, dating back before 2002, that fall under the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision.

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Armenia will Join Russian Customs Union (9/17)

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armensahakyanphotoBy Armen Sahakyan,  European Affairs Editorial Assistant 

In a move last week that came as surprise to many, the Armenian president signed a joint statement with Russia, confirming Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union (CU) and readiness to participate in the formation of the Russian sponsored Eurasian Union (EAU).  Bringing Armenia into Russia’s Custom Union is a something of coup for Putin since Armenia had been recently negotiating for an association and customs pact with the EU.

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The Return of ‘The Rock’: Gibraltar Continues to Roil Anglo-Spanish Relations (8/14)

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ryan barnes photo 2By Ryan Barnes, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Department of Commerce

Gibraltar, also known as “The Rock”  for the iconic Rock of Gibraltar that towers over the western entrance of the Mediterranean, is a roughly two and a half square mile patch of land on the southern tip of Spain, straddling the Strait of Gibraltar that separates the European continent from Morocco. Once again, tempers have flared in London and Madrid, this time over Gibraltar’s plans to expand a reef in the Mediterranean, souring an otherwise sound partnership between the United Kingdom and Spain.

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Azerbaijan Chooses TAP over Nabucco to Provide Gas Pipeline to Europe (8/8)

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By Caitlin Del Sole, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

After years of fierce competition among Europe’s energy giants, the developers of a major Azerbaijani natural gas field in the Caspian Sea recently picked the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project over the Nabucco West project to transport Caspian natural gas to Europe.  According to the Financial Times, the estimated cost of the project is around $5 billion.   The decision has major implications for European energy requirements and will help ease dependence on Russian gas.

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Can an EU Budget Deal Save the Lost Generation? 7/ 18

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By Caitlin Del Sole, European Affairs Editorial Assistant

The recently approved seven-year budget of the European Union provides a basis for addressing the serious and growing problem of youth unemployment throughout the region.

At the recent European Council summit, the heads of European governments agreed to frontload the 6 billion euro fund for the Youth Employment Initiative to ensure it is operational at the beginning of next year and disbursed in 2014 – 2015 and not over the full seven years of the budget through 2020.

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EU-U.S. Trade Talks – Europolitics Special Supplement (7/9)

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By Brian Beary, U.S. Correspondent for Europolitics

As some 60 EU trade officials descend on Washington this week to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement with the United States, Europolitics, the leading Brussels-based EU affairs newspaper, has just published a special section on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP.

Entitled ‘Transatlantic Common Market – Opportunity or Pipe Dream,’ the report explores the core issues involved in the TTIP talks. In exclusive interviews, top U.S. and EU trade officials outline their respective goals and potential red lines. The supplement also offers concise perspectives from the other key players, notably from the European Parliament, the U.S. Congress, the business community, the trade unions, the World Trade Organization and China. It drills down into the nuts and bolts of the talks, with a dozen special features focused on individual sectors. They range from public procurement, an area where Europe would like to see America open up its markets more, to agriculture, where it is the Americans that are on the offensive in seeking to get rid of EU trade barriers. The report also examines sectors that may or may not be included depending on how the talks go, from commercial air travel to banking to the cinema industry to U.S. liquefied natural gas exports. There are, in addition, brief biographies of a dozen key Europeans and Americans pivotal to the TTIP negotiations and a statistical overview of the EU-US trade relationship.

Download the issue here.