Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.
President Obama’s new plan to create an infrastructure bank didn’t get a lot of attention this week. And a lot of the attention it did get was from Republicans dismissing it as wasteful spending. That’s too bad. The Europeans already have a similar institution, called the European Investment Bank (EIB), and it’s been highly successful. Instead of ignoring or dismissing the concept, it might be worth examining how and why that bank works—and whether Obama’s version would work the same way. Founded in 1958, the EIB is owned by the 27 member states of the EU.
On both sides of the Atlantic, it has been an uncomfortable summer for immigrant groups. Here in the United States there have been the quarrels over the "Ground Zero Mosque," “anchor babies,” and Arizona’s new illegal immigrant bill (not to mention yet more calls for the deportation of our “Muslim” president to his “native” Kenya by the surprisingly large proportion of the Republican Party that seems to have taken up permanent residence on Planet Zorg).
For a brief season, Henry Hopkinson was a Tory politician of the second rank, who might have risen higher if he hadn’t famously misspoken in 1954. As a junior minister at the Colonial Office, he said in the House of Commons that Cyprus would never be granted independence. This dogged him for the rest of his life.
In early February, the top financial officials of seven major industrialized countries gathered in Canada to mull the state of the world economy. To grease their interactions, the Canadians had created an intimate setting in Iqaluit, an Inuit town near the Arctic Circle. A planning document waxed on about fireside chats at a cozy inn and decreed that the attire would be casual.
Maybe it's an admission of her utter irrelevance as kind-of foreign minister of the European Union, maybe she just wants her own show. But Baroness Ashton is not coming to Hillary Clinton's Middle East confab, no she is not. I wrote about her two or three times a while back, and not admiringly. And her performance since then, even in the eyes of official Europe sitting in Brussels, has not brought her many but also not any fans. She is one of those international bureaucrats whose life is travel, travel, travel. And pronounce, pronounce, pronounce.
Turkey is not going to join the European Union. Bald or candid statements are usually unwise, or “impolitic,” which is why politicians tend to avoid them, knowing that they may be falsified by events. But some can be made with absolute confidence, and here is one of them. This question has returned to the news with the recent Turkish visit by David Cameron, during which he said that Turkey should join the E.U. as soon as possible. Whatever my new prime minister may say, it has been clear to me ever since I took any interest in the question that Turkey was not going to join the E.U.
On Wednesday, The Independent announced that "Cameron uses Turkish visit to launch ferocious attack on Israel." The Guardian reports that he "likened the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip to that of a 'prison camp'." Having just been to Washington, was Cameron doing a transmission job for Barack Obama? Probably not. This missive about Israel is surely not the one that Obama really wants to transmit now.
You don't have to be a Marxist to detect a certain class bias at work in the Atlantic Monthly's "Ideas Festival." Here's a report from Lloyd Grove: “We are, without question, in a period of decline, particularly in the business world,” [Mort] Zuckerman said. “The real problem we have…are some of the worst economic policies in place today that, in my judgment, go directly against the long-term interests of this country.” Zuckerman added that he detects in the Obama White House “hostility to the very kinds of [business] culture that have made this the great country that it is and was.
For the sake of argument, imagine, if you can, an American foreign policy based on interest alone. To begin with, to use the current Wall Street phrase, it would need to overweight Latin America and underweight the Middle East. For whether the Obama administration believes it or not (in fairness, they are no worse than their predecessors, though they are no better either), crises are brewing in Latin America that pose potentially greater threats to the United States than those posed by Al Qaeda.