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European countries reel from deadly storms – Europe – Al Jazeera English

European countries reel from deadly storms – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Deadly hurricane-force winds and torrential rain have brought havoc to transport networks Britain and France.The death toll rose to at least six people on Tuesday, as winds of up to 145kph hit both sides of the Channel with heavy downpours causing flooding, traffic jams, and cancellations of rail, flight and ferry services.

Aidan McGivern, a meteorologist, told Al Jazeera people were preparing themselves for more bad weather.

Analysts expect the storms to hurt retailers eager to cash in on the traditional Christmas rush [EPA]

In Britain, the number of people killed in two days of storms rose to at least five after a man died trying to rescue his dog from fast-flowing waters in Devon, southwest England.

A teenager died in France on Monday after a wall collapsed on him.

Airports in southern England were disrupted, with some flights from Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, cancelled or delayed.

Britain’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, said one terminal had been hit by a major power outage on Tuesday and storm damage had temporarily cut all trains to the airport.

Several hundred passengers were stranded at the airport and airport police had to be called in to help deal with angry passengers.

British train operators cancelled hundreds of services on Tuesday morning, by which time the storm had abated, leaving hundreds of thousands of people scrambling to get on to later services in and out of London.

Thousands without power

Brittany and Normandy were among the regions worst hit in France, where 240,000 homes lost electricity, while in southern England, 150,000 homes were cut off from the power grid, the Energy Networks Association said.

Energy company Southern Electric said that some customers would be without power on Christmas Day.

McGivern told Al Jazeera another storm was expected to strike on Friday.

“That is expected to bring another spell of wet and windy weather,” he said.

IHS analyst Howard Archer said the weather was expected to hurt British retailers, eager to cash in on the traditional pre Christmas rush.

“Given retailers’ hopes that the last couple of days before Christmas would see a final strong surge in sales, the awful weather could not have come at a worse time,” Archer said.

 

S&P cuts EU rating over tense budget talks – Europe – Al Jazeera English

S&P cuts EU rating over tense budget talks – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

S&P said that cohesion among EU members had lessened [GETTY]
Standard & Poor’s has downgraded the European Union’s long-term credit rating, stripping the bloc of the highest grade of AAA to AA+, citing rising tensions on budget negotiations.The move follows cuts to the ratings of EU member states in recent months.

The credit rating agency said on Friday that a bitter battle over the EU budget and worsening creditworthiness of its members are behind the decision to decrease the bloc’s long-term issuer credit rating by one grade.

“In our opinion, the overall creditworthiness of the now 28 EU member states has declined,” S&P said in a statement.

“In our view, EU budgetary negotiations have become more contentious, signaling what we consider to be rising risks to the support of the EU from some member states.”

S&P said cohesion among EU members had lessened and that some might baulk at funding the EU budget on a pro-rata basis.

Average rating of contributors dropped

The average rating of net contributors to the EU budget has fallen to AA+ from AA since January 2012, when S&P revised its outlook on the long-term EU rating to negative, the company said.

S&P has had a negative outlook on the EU since that date and has since cut its ratings on members France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Slovenia, Cyprus and the Netherlands.

The EU is not a sovereign but it can borrow in its own name. As of this month, it had outstanding loans of 56 billion euros ($76.5 billion), according to S&P.

The credit-rating agency said its downgrade of The Netherlands last month left the EU with six AAA-rated members. Since 2007, revenues contributed by AAA-rated sovereigns as a proportion of total EU revenues nearly halved to 31.6 percent, it added.

 

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding | Society | The Guardian.

Government under fire for rejecting European Union food bank funding

Critics say Conservative anti-EU ideology being put ahead of needs of the poor after UK officials turn down subsidy
food banks

The economic downturn has seen use of food banks in Britain increase dramatically in recent months. Photograph: Mercury Press & Media Ltd

The government has been accused of putting “anti-European ideology” before the needs of the most deprived people in society after Britain rejected help from a European Union fund to help subsidise the costs offood banks.

David Cameron, who was heavily criticised recently after Michael Gove blamed the rise in food banks on financial mismanagement by families, faced pressure to embark on a U-turn to allow EU funds to be spent on feeding the poor.

The government came under fire after British officials in Brussels said that the UK did not want to use money from a new £2.5bn fund – European Aid to the Most Deprived – to be used to help with the costs of running food banks. The use of food banks has increased dramatically in recent months, prompting Sir John Major to warn that the poor face a stark choice between paying for heating or food.

But British officials rejected EU funding for food banks, which could have reached £22m for Britain, on the grounds that individual member states are best placed to take charge of such funding.

A document from the Department of Work and Pensions explaining Britain’s position, which has been leaked to the Guardian, says: “The UK government does not support the proposal for a regulation on the fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived. It believes that measures of this type are better and more efficiently delivered by individual member states through their own social programmes, and their regional and local authorities, who are best placed to identify and meet the needs of deprived people in their countries and communities. It therefore questions whether the commission’s proposal is justified in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.”

Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP who helped negotiate the new fund, accused the government of neglecting the needs of the poor. “It is very sad that our government is opposing this much-needed help for foodbanks on the basis that it is a national responsibility, when in reality it has no intention of providing the help itself. The only conclusion is that Conservative anti-European ideology is being put before the needs of the most destitute and deprived in our society.”

Howitt added that he hoped that a Westminster parliamentary debate on Wednesday would prompt a government U-turn. He said the debate “should be used to shame a government, which is taking food out of the mouths of the hungry, into a U-turn in time for Christmas”.

It is understood that in “trilogue” negotiations – between the European commission, the council of ministers and the European Parliament – British officials formed a blocking minority with three other EU member states to water down the fund which will run from 2014-2020. Under the original plans there would have been just one funding strand for the “distribution of material assistance” – sleeping bags and food. But Britain prompted the creation of a second funding strand known as “immaterial assistance” to cover counselling and budget maintenance but not food banks.

The position taken by UK officials means that Britain will draw down just €3.5m (£2.9m) from the fund compared with €443m for France which is around the same size as the UK. Britain is taking the same amount as Malta, the smallest EU member state with a population of 450,000.

The department for work and pensions said that Britain has not lost any money because the £22m would have come out of the UK’s EU structural fund pot. It said that ministers have not decided how to allocate the £2.9m earmarked for Britain from the fund, though this is expected to be spent on helping unemployed people find work.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation. Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

Chris Mould, the executive chairman of Britain’s largest network of food banks, the Trussell Trust, told the Guardian: “We would welcome an opportunity to have discussions with DWP about how we could use that €3.5m to good effect. If the EU made a decision in the European Parliament that this money should be used for the assistance of people in severe need – and it has got a food aid tag on it – then we hope they will talk to us.”

On the signs that the government would like to spend the money in helping people into work, rather than on food aid, Mould said: “It is the decision of government at all times what its priorities are for the money it has available. But it does need to spend money in several places not in one place. The Trussell Trust has provided through its network of food banks emergency assistance for over 500,000 people since 2013 who are in financial crisis, who are going hungry who have been referred by more than 23,000 different professionals holding vouchers.

“If people don’t get help when they are in financial crisis they lose their home, their families break down, they suffer anxiety and depression. All these things have a significant financial cost to the state. It is very important that the government looks beyond the narrow single issue argument of spending all the money into employment. Of course that is important but they are spending massive of money on that which is good. But this EU money is extra and originally intended to be for food assistance.”

A disunited Europe will struggle even to disintegrate – FT.com

A disunited Europe will struggle even to disintegrate – FT.com.

The hard reality is that all the radical options require a consensus that does not exist

Is it time to repatriate powers from the EU? Such a bold option is a matter of interest not only in the UK, where David Cameron, the prime minister, has proposed a referendum on British membership of the union based on his hope to do just that. More surprisingly, it has also become the most hotly debated issue in the eurozone – albeit for different reasons.

The latest, weighty contribution to this debate comes from Ashoka Mody, a former senior official of the International Monetary Fund now at Bruegel, a think-tank in Brussels. In an essay, “A Schuman compact for the euro area”, he starts from the premise that he wants to preserve the euro. But he finds the most pragmatic way of achieving this goal is to end all pretensions to a fiscal union and a banking union, and to repatriate policy.

The argument is that these are policy areas that require a clear delineation of competences. The present system of shared sovereignty over fiscal policy between member states and European institutions hasdemonstrably not worked. Genuine political union, with a central fiscal authority and a central authority over banking, is not politically feasible, he says. The best alternative to integration is a return to national responsibility.

This is my summary of Professor Mody’s essay. He explains Europe’s dysfunctional policy response to the crisis in much greater detail. I agree with him on the central part of his analysis: you cannot run a complex monetary union through a system of shared sovereignty. Somebody has to be in charge.

My disagreement with Prof Mody lies in his conclusion, which consists of two related arguments. The first is that a political union is not attainable. The second is that a repatriation of fiscal policies, and banking, could work. He proposes to do this through enhanced “compacts” – contractual agreements in the form of binding treaties that regulate fundamental principles of economic policy co-ordination. They would fall outside the competence of the EU and its institutions.

On banking union specifically, Prof Mody supports a German proposal, which amounts to repatriation. This proposal calls for a loose alliance of national supervisors, based on an agreed set of rules and standards with rigorous benchmarks for best practice. For this to work, Germany itself would have to set an example and “shed its reputation for diluting the new generation of international bank regulatory standards”. As a first step, it should merge its fragmented deposit insurance system.

But how likely is that? Put another way: is the probability of a political union really that much lower than the probability that Germany would do any of the things Prof Mody stipulates? If we take away banking union, Germany is more likely to cement the current system than to change it.

This brings me to the main counter-argument to Prof Mody. A wise friend once remarked that the only thing that is harder to do in Europe than to integrate is to disintegrate. This is why the policy is to muddle through on the basis of existing law and institutions. All radical options – a dissolution of the eurozone, a formal default or repatriation – would require a consensus that is simply not there.

I am not ready to give up on the big idea of a political union. The history of the EU has shown that integration can be irritatingly slow and grinding, but when it occurs it is ultimately forceful. The reason people are discussing banking or fiscal union today is precisely because member states have been facing a collective action problem and because a crisis left them with no alternative.

Loose co-ordination has been tried, and it did not work. One reason is that sovereignty entails the freedom by people and governments to disregard what previous generations inserted into their compacts. Just look at Europe’s stability pact.

For me, the main lesson of the eurozone crisis is that without a minimally sufficient central power, with the right to impose economic policies, a monetary union is ultimately unstable. Reasonable people can disagree on how large and powerful this centre would have to be. They can also disagree on whether the goal is attainable or not in our specific case. But it is not reasonable to assume that going back to the status quo ante is going to solve the problem. It is the place where we came from.

munchau@eurointelligence.com

 

Ukraine: NATO’s New 2,300-Kilometer Border With Russia | | truthaholics

Ukraine: NATO’s New 2,300-Kilometer Border With Russia | | truthaholics. (source)

North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Allied Command Operations/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe

October 30, 2013

UKRAINIAN MOD AND GENERAL STAFF DELEGATION VISITS SHAPE
Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office

MONS, Belgium: A delegation from the MoD of Ukraine and General Staff met with Deputy Chief of Staff Military Partnerships, Major General Haluk Cumali Çetinkaya, and other Staff Representatives at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) on Tuesday, 29 October 2013. Members of the delegation were briefed on ACO current structure and functions, as well on the NATO Force Generation process. Both briefings were followed by a question and answer session, where issues of mutual interest between NATO and Ukraine were discussed.

The recent Ukrainian commitment to participate in the Alliance’s counter–piracy mission, Operation Ocean Shield, is a recent example of NATO–Ukraine relations. The Ukrainian Navy frigate HETMAN SAGAIYDACHNIY joined Operation Ocean Shield on 10 October 2013, marking the first time a partner nation has contributed to NATO’s counter–piracy effort, which has been operating off the Horn of Africa, since 2009.

Ukraine also contributes to the NATO Response Force (NRF) and is participating in Exercise Steadfast Jazz in November, which is designed to train and certify the NRF.

“For many years UKR contributes to Euro-Atlantic security with respect to both NATO led operations and the NATO Response Forces. We are grateful for continued Ukrainian efforts to work together with NATO in the traditional areas of cooperation of defence reform, interoperability and operations, as well as emerging areas of cooperation”, said General Çetinkaya. “Your visit to SHAPE highlights once again the strength and depth of the NATO-Ukraine relationship” he said. As well General Çetinkaya expressed his gratitude for Ukraine efforts to maintain a permanent UKR Partner Liaison Team and two Partnership Staff Element officers presence in MPD, as it is a key element ensuring a smooth NATO – Ukraine Military Cooperation on a daily bases.

Currently, Ukraine is the only partner nation contributing to all NATO-led operations and the NRF. The Allies and Ukraine discuss issues of mutual interest within the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which provides a forum for consultation between the Allies and Ukraine on security issues of common concern, such as Afghanistan, the Balkans, the fight against terrorism, frozen conflicts and other regional security issues.

 

Saving the Environment: A Job for Everyone, or Just Developed Nations?

Saving the Environment: A Job for Everyone, or Just Developed Nations?.

 

Canada’s Job Protection Rules Among The Weakest: OECD

Canada’s Job Protection Rules Among The Weakest: OECD.

 

Is it the end of the European crisis? – Features – Al Jazeera English

Is it the end of the European crisis? – Features – Al Jazeera English.

 

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