Bursting the Bubble

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

War on drugs is failing to achieve results

4 May 2016 | by

The infamous Nixon-era term ‘war on drugs’ personifies a set of policies that started to take root in the 1970’s which were aimed at discouraging the production, consumption and distribution of drugs in the U.S. While initial approaches actually led to a reduction of severity of punishments related to the possession of certain substances, in time ‘war on drugs’ became a synonym with ever harsher punishment for drug related offences, such as mandatory sentencing. However, the tough stance on the issue is a mixed blessing. The costs for combating drug trade in U.S. are rising year on year, yet according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse in U.S. the overall use of illicit drugs is growing and marijuana is leading the pack. The number of arrests for drug possession are steadily climbing too. Based on the Bureau of Justice statistics, around half of people serving time in federal prisons and sixteen per cent of state prisoners entered the correctional system of the U.S. for drug convictions. Even people who supported the initial hard-line approach of the program have acknowledged that the financial and human toll is too big and the tactics are ineffective. Continue reading

Gender Equality: still a priority for the EU?

29 April 2016 | by

Gender equality has been within the core values of the European Union from the beginning of the European project, since article 119 of the Treaties of Rome (1957) introduced the principle of equal pay for men and women. Nowadays, it is still part of the Treaties: articles 2 and 3 of the TEU explicitly mention the commitment of the Union towards “equality between women and men”, while articles 8 and 10 of the TFEU state that the EU shall aim to combat discrimination and inequalities “based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”. Equality between women and men is also included as part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Furthermore, 15 directives were adopted between 1975 and 2010 with the objective of ensuring the equal treatment of men and women at work, prohibiting discrimination in social security schemes, setting out minimum requirements on parental leaves, providing protection to pregnant workers or recent mothers and setting out rules on access to employment, working conditions, remuneration as well as legal rights for the self-employed.

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Vestager quests for what is fair

27 April 2016 | by

Competition means that businesses are under constant pressure to be better than their competitors so as to win customers. Competition stimulates innovation and technical progress, and this improves consumer welfare. Consumer interests are thus at the core of competition policy. In a competitive market, each business strives to “be the best”, attracting consumers by cutting prices and increasing the quality of products or services.

With consumers’ help, authorities like the European Commission can take more efficient actions to prevent or prohibit anti-competitive practices that are sometimes found on the market place. The European Commission monitors: agreements between companies which restrict competition, like cartels; abuses of a dominant position, where a major player tries to squeeze competitors out of the market; mergers, when companies join forces permanently or temporarily; and financial support (state aid) for companies paid by EU governments.

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Gone with Schengen

25 April 2016 | by

Undoubtedly, 2015 has been the refugees’ year in Europe. According to the UNHCR, around 1,006, 768 immigrants have arrived in the European Union fleeing from war and poverty across the Mediterranean Sea. In absolute terms this figure represents half of Turkey’s burden, and proportionally, a shameful comparison with counties as buoyant as Lebanon. However, this burden may be heavy enough to make the veil fall off, revealing the weaknesses of the current EU model, already downgraded by the loss of legitimacy of the last civic features of the mercantilist European project: The Schengen area. Continue reading