Bursting the Bubble

Greece: Eurozone and IMF clash over debt relief

7 June 2016 | by

On one level, the recurring Greek crises fits the idea from Karl Marx of history repeating itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Greece came close to a eurozone exit last summer. While it will probably come close again this year, it is unlikely to leave. The eurozone, Greece and International Monetary Fund (IMF) stood at a stand-off and reached an agreement implanting some proposals from the IMF, but the group around Germany, swept along by Alternative fur Deutschland, won the stand-off. The IMF published a new document right before the summit. In that document they has concluded that Greek public debt, at 180 per cent of gross domestic product, is unsustainable; as is the agreed annual primary budget surplus, before interest payments, of 3.5 per cent of GDP. The fund insists on debt relief, but Germany continues to resist. Continue reading

Contrary to popular opinion, business lobbyists are less effective than NGOs

1 June 2016 | by

This title summarises an important study carried out in 2015-16 by three professors at the London School of Economics (LSE) with a specific focus on consumer protection and the environment. The statement might appear shocking, but in fact I arrived at the same conclusion 10 years ago in my book “European Lobbying”.

Why?

My analysis at the time, and that of LSE, converge to give reasons for this lack of performance among business lobbyists. The first reason lies in the fact – indisputable in my view – that the EU agenda is in practice inspired by NGOs. GMOs, pesticides, nuclear, endocrine disruptors – on all these issues and others, industry is on the defensive. However, in lobbying, defensive strategies are destined to lose in the long term.

The second reason is directly linked to the first. According to the three LSE professors, systems moving towards more regulation – certainly the case in the European Union – give more of an advantage to NGOs than to industry. This is another common point of our analyses.

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What does the election of Alexander Van der Bellen mean for Austrian (and EU) energy and climate policy?

25 May 2016 | by

On Monday 23 May, the Green Party candidate, and former Interior Minister, Alexander Van der Bellen, beat Freedom Party hopeful Norbert Hofer in the Austrian Presidential election by a margin of 31 000 votes, gaining 50.3% of the popular ballot versus 49.7%, from a total of 4.64 million cast, ending one of the closest election races in years. He becomes the second European Head of State with a Green Party background following Latvia’s Raimonds Vējonis who was elected in 2015. Besides the worrying amount of right wing sentiment in Austria following Mr Hofer’s surprise run, and the even more worrying total number of votes recieved, Austria can now boast one of the most progressive Heads of States in Europe, with a firm focus on the green economy and sustainable investment. But with such a slim majority, can President Van der Bellen unite a divided country, and push through the green agenda which Austria and Europe so vitally needs? Continue reading

Written procedure: the devil is in the detail

13 May 2016 | by

In the not too distant past, we communicated a lot about the Orphacol case, involving the authorisation of an orphan medicine via an implementing decision. The affair made great waves. We told the story in a booklet called ‘The Orphacol Saga.’

One of the many bombshells in this case occurred when a Member State interrupted the written procedure, initially started by the Commission to enable a quasi-automatic approval of the medicine. The cancella on of the written procedure brought even more turbulence for Orphacol!

The written procedure allows the Commission to adopt a draft measure without debate (although a debate might have taken place at an earlier phase). This automatism of decision-making can be stopped by a Member State, giving the committee the chance to meet, vote and potentially oppose. Stopping the written procedure is therefore not a neutral act: it constitutes an important lobbying act on in terms of taking back control of the situation.

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Asia matters for Europe & Europe matters for Asia – Is it really so?

11 May 2016 | by

A few weeks ago, Mongolia kicked off the first of several events and high-level meetings under one common name: the Asia-Europe meeting. Dozens of side events including civil society forum, youth forum, business forum and various meeting of 51 heads of state, including the European Union as well as the ASEAN Secretariat will take place. Such will occur in the country with a rich history situated at the crossroad of West and East as well as South and North. The visit of thousands of political and civil society delegates, journalists, students and tourists represents a huge challenge not only for Mongolia, a democratic state landlocked between two world’s superpowers Russia and China, but also for all governments or interest groups attending the Forum. Mongolia, the country strongly hit by China’s economic slowdown, has invested an enormous amount of financial and human resources in preparation of the Summit in order to present itself in the best light, thus attracting new investors, reinforcing economic diversification and bolstering sustainable economic growth.

However, the Summit is missing some important aspects such as feasible content, goal-oriented initiatives, multilateral projects and the will of its own members to move forward or act more flexibly. Europe, overwhelmed by an increasing number of internal headaches and painful discussions, accommodates the dynamics of Asian development with huge difficulties.        Continue reading