Has this been the tournament of Euroredemption? It has been impossible to follow Euro 2012 unaware of political frissons, and the echoes of the other Euro, as the European Union undergoes its gravest crisis since Treaty of Rome in 1957. “Greece Leaves the Euro” was one cheeky London tabloid headline after the Greeks were beaten 4-2 (it had to be Germany who beat them).
Last year, the football editor of The Independent ran an article with a surprising headline: “Portugal ‘sells’ Ronaldo to Spain in £160m deal on national debt.” Less than ten days earlier, Portugal’s prime minister, José Sócrates, had resigned upon failing to enact a fourth round of austerity measures to make up a severe budget shortfall.
The frustrating, and damaging, thing about Angela Merkel’s leadership in the European economic crisis is that she has consistently preferred incremental steps, even at the risk of exacerbating instability across the continent. Now, in advance of this week’s highly-anticipated EU summit, it seems she’s finally taken a bold leap. The problem is it’s in the completely wrong direction. First, a quick summary of where things stood until now.
The ultimate goal of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, the next round of which commences in Moscow on June 18, has always been the same: Determining whether Iran is willing to accept that its nuclear program must be credibly limited in a way that precludes it from being able to turn civil nuclear power into nuclear weapons. The collective approach of the 5+1—the five permanent members of the U.N.
The 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, which got underway last week, has our football-obsessed staffers and friends excited for purely sporting reasons (check out our new blog, Goal Post, for ample evidence.) For rest of us, however, the continental soccer tournament is fascinating for the way it intersects with the world’s most important pending economic and political drama: the slow-motion collapse of the European Union. It got us thinking: What would the tournament bracket look like if, rather than facing each other on the pitch, these countries went toe to toe economically?
Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global PowerBy Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic Books, 208 pp., $26) When it comes to offering a vision to guide American foreign policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski’s latest book, unlike so much other literature of this type, refuses to lament or exaggerate the alleged decline in American power and influence. Instead Strategic Vision offers a kind of blueprint—a path that Washington must take, in Brzezinski’s view, to ensure a secure international order, in which free markets and democratic principles can thrive.
Since taking office in March 2011, Burmese president Thein Sein has captivated international attention by releasing political prisoners, loosening press restrictions and luring world-famous democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi back into the political mainstream. Though the end-point of Burma’s democratic spring remains ambiguous, the imprimatur of “the Lady,” as she is known, has been enough to convince Western policymakers that the reforms are real.
When Francois Hollande, the newly elected president of France, arrives today in Berlin for his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it will kindle memories of the long history of Franco-German partnership in leading the European Union. In France, it may even trigger the traditional condescension Parisian politicians feel towards their neighbors: the lumbering German economic giant that relies on French diplomatic, military, and nuclear savoir faire to achieve political clout. Increasingly, however, such sentiments are mere nostalgia.
Athens, Greece—The big winners of Greece’s election this week were parties far removed from the political center. From the leftist SYRIZA, which came in second place with 17 percent of the vote, to the far-right Independent Greeks, who ended up with 11 percent, and the racist extremists of Golden Dawn, who gained 7 percent, the non-mainstream parties received an alarmingly large share of the total vote. What’s less clear, however, is what the vote tallies mean. Were they simply a reflection of anger against the ruling parties that have presided over the country’s current economic freefall?
Major political change is afoot in France, where a presidential election has brought anti-austerity politician François Hollande to power. In the face of the EU’s economic crisis, incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy has cooperated closely with German chancellor Angela Merkel to push for tough austerity measures. Now, France’s leadership is poised to go in a different direction.