Posts tagged ‘Europe’

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

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05/07/2012

France: What Socialist Win Means

FRANCE NOW SOCIALIST: While Republican strategists in the U.S. totally distort the meaning of the word “socialist” by claiming President Obama has become one, since he signed a bill that preserved capitalism, by placing private sector insurance companies, instead of the government, in control of America’s health care system, French voters are not that gullible, and they were not at all confused last week when they elected Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, to be their next President.

U.S. CONFUSION: Many in the U.S. confuse the meaning of political and economic systems. Political systems can range from monarchy, or dictatorship, on the one extreme, to democracy, or Republican forms of government on the other. Economic systems include pure free market capitalism, on one hand, socialism in the middle, and communism on the other end of the spectrum.

POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SYSTEMS CAN BE MIXED: Countries are free to mix together different types of economic and political systems. Saudi Arabia has a dictatorial monarchy, coupled with a capitalist economic model. The one-party dictatorship in North Korea functions within a communist framework. Voters in the U.S. democracy lean towards more capitalism and less socialism, while those in other republics, like France, are now opting for more socialism, and less capitalism.

U.S. REQUIRES ONLY DEMOCRACY: The U.S. Constitution requires only a Republican form of government, or in other words, a democratic electoral process. The Constitution makes no mention of “capitalism” or “free markets.” U.S. House members and Senators are free to implement whatever regulations of commerce they wish, using more or less capitalism, or socialism.

SOCIALISM BEGAN IN EUROPE: After the first Socialist Party was founded in Germany in 1861, over time it gained popular support throughout Europe. While progress was made in the Russian Revolution in 1917, as the absolute monarchy of the Czar was overthrown, the movement went too far in the civil war, as a harsh dictatorial communist state gained control. Socialists, who had supported personal liberties and regular democratic elections, had no place in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

DICTATORSHIPS ARE PER SE BAD: To be clear, no country should ever return to the old Stalinist communist model, as it was dictatorial, and denied opportunities to modify economic policies in the market, or through the ballot box. One way or another, individuals had to be free to influence politics and economics.

CONTROLLED-ECONOMIES FAIL ON SUPPLY-SIDE: When government-controlled command economies decide what goods to manufacture, and determine supply, without regard to consumer demand, systems become dysfunction, shortages arise, and black markets develop. If central planners fail to open up enough retail outlets, service declines from the absence of competition.

CAPITALISM PREFERRED AS TO RETAIL GOODS: Supply should never be determined from the top down, but rather from the bottom up. It should be based on the collective demands of consumers, not guesses by bureaucratic planners. Market economies are useful when it comes to boots, blue jeans, and other goods. It is the bottom up message that creates efficiencies.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS TEND TO MONOPOLIZE: The government does however have an important role to play in free enterprise, particularly in maintaining competition, which is essential for the system to work. Total free market capitalists, when completely left to their own devices, ultimately devour their own. Where power concentrates, firms get too big to fail, and governments must step in with antitrust laws to bust them up. Without antitrust actions one corporation in each economic sector ultimately dominates, eliminates all competition, and the same inefficiencies observed in command economies surface.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD ABUSE LABOR: Without regulatory laws, workers in a pure free market economy would serve at the whim of their employers. There would be no collective bargaining, no occupational health or safety rules, wages would have no floor, and injured or laid-off workers would go uncompensated. There would be no pensions, or retirement for that matter, since everyone would just keep working.

UNREGULATED CAPITALISTS WOULD POLLUTE: Without restraints on a totally free market economy, factories would be able to dump polluted water into rivers, and motor vehicles would belch noxious exhaust fumes into the atmosphere, unabated.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS HAVE ENACTED GOOD LAWS: Laws to improve living conditions and to give individuals some degree of security against unemployment, accident, illness, old-age, and the like were needed, and have been enacted by state legislatures using their police powers, and by the federal lawmakers under the Congressional power to regulate commerce.

SOCIALISM IS BETTER FOR ESSENTIAL SERVICES: While the free market is better when it comes to consumer goods, the pure capitalist system has many flaws in the delivery of essential services, since it does not concern itself with equitable distributions of wealth. Many people suffer when the government stays out and gives private enterprise a free hand as to everything. A system in which only those who can afford essential services can buy them, and those who cannot go without, is not a good one, and is prone towards revolution. While pure capitalists believe government should never interfere in economic affairs, no matter how much disparity exists, Social Democrats have made the world a better place, and it could be improved even more, if more nations would follow the French lead.

04/12/2012

European Bases Should Be Vacated

In addition to the large number of U.S. military facilities in Germany, there are several in other European countries, that are draining funds from the federal treasury, without yielding much of anything in return, and they should be closed.

BRITAIN: In addition to supporting seven NATO facilities in the United Kingdom, the U.S. leases the following installations:
Air Force: RAF: Lakenheath, Brandon, Suffolk
Air Force: RAF: Menwith Hill, Yorkshire Dales
Air Force: RAF: Mildenhall
Air Force: RAF: Croughton, Upper Heyford
Air Force: RAF: Alconbury, Cambridgeshire

NETHERLANDS: The U.S. Air Force contributes to the Joint Force Command Brunssum (NATO) in the Netherlands.

PORTUGAL: The U.S. Air Force leases a base at Lajes Field in the Azores, which are Portugese Islands in the Atlantic. We also contribute funds to support a NATO facility in Portugal itself.

SPAIN: The U.S. Navy uses the Rota Naval Station in Spain, and our Air Force has bases in Andalucia.

ITALY: The exact number of U.S. bases in Italy is not clear. One author claims there are over 100, while another source lists just a few. The U.S. uses at least the following:
Army and Air Force: Aviano Air Base (NATO)
Army: Caserma Ederle, Vicenza
Army & Air Force: Camp Darby, Pisa-Livorno
Army: San Vito Dei Normanni Air Station—Brindisi
Navy and Air Force: Naval Air Station Sigonella (NATO)
Navy: Naval Support Activity Gaeta
Navy: Naval Support Activity Naples
Navy: NCTS Naples

KOSOVO: Since the Serbian bombings in the 1990s, the U.S. has had a presence in Kosovo. The U.S. Army uses Camp Bondsteel and Film City-Pristina.

BULGARIA: Since Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2005, the U.S. presence in Bulgaria has grown. The U.S. Army has bases at Aytos Logistics Center (Burgas Region) and Novo Selo Range (Sliven Region), while the U.S. Air Force has a presence at Bezmer Air Base in the Yambol Region, and Graf Ignatievo in the Plavdiv Region.

GREECE: The U.S. Navy uses a Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay, on the island of Crete. We have also maintained facilities at Hellonicon and Nea Makri.

04/09/2012

Germany: Let’s Close All U.S. Bases

For a long time since the end of World War II, 67 years ago, the Europeans, and in particular the Germans, have posed absolutely no threat to our national security, yet we continue to maintain 62 facilities in the fatherland that could be shut down. While 20 are scheduled for closure by 2015, the remaining 42 should also get the ax, since we do not need them, and can no longer afford them.

The 42 facilities, not currently slated for closure, (listed below) are in the states of Bavaria (13), Baden-Wurttemberg (8), Rhineland-Pfalz (17), Hesse (3) and North Rhine-Westphalia (1). The 20 set to close between 2012 and 2015 follow.

NOT SLATED TO BE CLOSED, BUT SHOULD BE:

ANSBACH (Bavaria) (8)
Army: Barton Barracks
Army: Bismarck Kaserne (the word means barracks)
Army: Katterbach Kaserne
Army: Shipton Kaserne
Army: Bleidorn Housing Area
Army: Urlas Housing and Shopping Complex
Army: Oberdachstetten Storage Area
Air Force: USAF Ansbach

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN (Bavaria) (1)
Army: Artillery Kasermne

HOHENFELS (Bavaria) (1)
Army: Hohenfels Training Area/Joint Multinational

ILLESHEIM (Bavaria) (1)
Army: Storck Barracks

VILSECK (Bavaria) (2)
Army: Rose Barracks
Army: Grafenwohr Training Area

BOBLINGEN (Baden-Wurttemberg) (1)
Marines: Camp Panzer Kaserne

HEIDELBERG (Baden-Wurttemberg) (1)
Army: Heidelberg Army Airfield

MANNHEIM (Baden-Wurttemberg) (1)
Army: Hammonds Barracks

STUTTGART (Baden-Wurttemberg) (5)
Army: Kelly Barracks
Army: Panzer Kaserne
Army: Patch Barracks
Army: Robinson Barracks
Army: Stuttgart Airport

BAUMHOLDER (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Smith Barracks

DEXHEIM  (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Anderson Barracks

GERMERSHEIM (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Germersheim Army Depot

KAISERSLAUTERN (Rhineland-Pfalz) (5)
Army: Kaiserslautern Military Community
Army: Kleber Kaserne
Army: Pulaski Barracks
Army: Rhein Ordnance Barracks
Army: Semback Kaserne

LANDSTUHL (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

MAINZ-GONSENHEIM MOMBACH (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: USAG (Garrison) Wiesbaden Military Training Area

MAINZ-FINTHEN AIRPORT (Rhineland-Pfalz) (2)
Army: USAG Wiesbaden Training Area
Army: USAG Wiesbaden Radar Station

MIESAU (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Miesau Army Depot

PIRMASENS (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: Husterhoeh Koserne

RAMSTEIN (Rheinland-Pfalz) (1)
Air Force: Ramstein Air Base

SPANGHAHLEM (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Air Force: Spangdahlem Air Base

WACKERNHEIM (Rhineland-Pfalz) (1)
Army: McCully Barracks

GRIESHEIM (Hesse) (1)
Army: Dagger Complex Darmstadt Training Center

WIESBADEN (Hesse) (2)
Army: Wiesbaden Army Airfield
Army: Storage Station Mainz-Kastel (Weisbaden)

GEILENKIRCHEN (North Rhine-Westphalia) (1)
Air Force: NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen

SCHEDULED FOR CLOSURE:
BAMBERG (Bavaria) (2)
Army: Bamberg Local Training Area (2015)
Army: Warner Barracks (2015)

SCHWEINFURT (Bavaria) (5)
Army: Askren Manors Housing Area (2015)
Army: Conn Barracks (2015)
Army: Ledward Barracks (2015)
Army: Yorktown Housing Complex (2015)
Army: Rottershausen Storage Area

HEIDELBERG (Baden-Wurttemberg) (5)
Army: Patrick Henry Village (2014)
Army: Campbell Barracks (2015)
Army: Mark Twain Village (2015)
Army: Nachrichten Kaserne (2015)
Army: Patton Barracks (2015)

MANNHEIM (Baden-Wurttemberg) (5)
Army: Benjamin Franklin Village (2012)
Army: Funari Barracks (2012)
Army: Sullivan Barracks (2014)
Army: Coleman Barracks (2015)
Army: Spinelli Barracks (2015)

SCHWETZINGEN (Baden-Wurttemberg) (2)
Army: Kilourne Kaserne (2015)
Army: Tompkins Barracks (2015)

LAMPERTHEIM (Hesse) (1)
Army: Lampertheim Training Area (2015)

The German economy has benefited greatly from the large sums of U.S. dollars spent in their country since the end of WWII, but it is now time for the U.S. to get its own financial house in order, by withdrawing all of our remaining troops and closing all of our facilities.

01/03/2012

Britain Should Adopt the Euro

Many Americans have a hard time understanding the European Union (EU), because countries that do not use the Euro currency are nevertheless allowed to be EU members. They cannot relate, since every U.S. state is required to use the Dollar, with no option.

The Euro, which was introduced in 2002, is presently the official currency in only 17 of 27 EU nations.  Seven countries, who enlisted in the EU in 2004 and 2007, will convert between 2012 and 2014 under timetables adopted at the time of admission. Three small non-EU tax havens also use it: Monaco, and San Marino and Andorra. But three EU states have opt-out, including: Britain (Pound Sterling), Denmark (krone), and Sweden (krona).

Since the recent economic crisis, it is unlikely the UK will replace the Pound with the Euro in the immediate future. Although the Euro would make foreign trade easier, and the failure to adopt it will adversely affect international investment, jobs, and economic prosperity, 66% in Britain have opposed a monetary conversion, because they fear a decline in national sovereignty and a loss of control over their economy. They worry a transfer of power from the Bank of England in London to the European Central Bank would give Frankfurt the ability to control interest rates, inflation, and unemployment. For these political and economic reasons, the UK decided not to adopt the Euro and continued using the Pound.

The question now is whether Britain’s refusal to join the monetary union will harm the EU? In the event of an EU recovery, will the UK start to become irrelevant? Since the Euro was a major success in terms of European unification during its first ten years, my guess is the new currency will survive the current crisis and the EU will emerge even stronger. Old England may in the long run be held down by the weight of their own Pound. In regional circles over time, the English currency will start to be viewed as funny money, since Europeans will be using the Euro. If Britain does not officially convert, their people may start to do so in the ordinary course of business, as a matter of fact, and inevitably the Pound may be lost anyway. Just when most think the adoption of the Euro would be the wrong move, some intelligent future British Prime Minister should courageously advocate its adoption.

12/07/2011

Romney: Weak Foreign Policy President

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, like George W. Bush, would be another weak foreign policy President, since he is not going to stand up to the special interests, but will instead continue the War in Afghanistan, and perhaps start another conflict in Iran, or in some other place the Israelis want us to deploy our troops.

VIETNAM: Romney, who is not a military veteran, would freely send the children of others into combat, even though he did not serve. Born in 1947, he came of age in 1965, just as the War in Vietnam was escalating. He was exposed to the draft throughout the war. He first obtained a 2-S student deferment, as a freshman at Stanford (1965-66). He then used Mormon missionary exemptions, while in France, from July 1966 through Jan. 1969. Curiously, he stayed in Europe, out of the reach of his local draft board, for a half year beyond his normal two-year Mormon hitch, which should have ended in July 1968. Upon returning to the U.S. in Jan. 1969, he added more deferments, by promptly enrolling at Brigham Young University, and by getting married on March 21, 1969. In the first military draft lottery, held in Dec. 1969, he luckily drew number 300. After finishing at Brigham Young in May 1971, the hawkish Mitt could have enlisted, but he played it safe, by enrolling at Harvard Law School. By the time the U.S. War in Vietnam ended, and the draft was abolished in 1973, he had successfully avoided military service for 8 continuous years.

ISRAEL: Romney sounds weak, like George W. Bush, because he would allow others to control our foreign policy. Not surprisingly, he said his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel. Although Israel continues to illegally construct settlements in occupied Palestine, Romney panders, claiming it’s wrong to criticize them.

MILITARY: Romney wants to appear tough, like John Wayne, by also pandering to the military.  He said in no uncertain terms he will not cut any defense spending, even though it is a major source of our national budget deficit. He seeks military support by complaining about proposed cuts for the F-22, Air Force bombers, and delays in new Navy aircraft carriers and cruisers, but he irresponsibly never suggests raising taxes to pay for these things.

FOREIGN AID: While Romney would somehow find money for guns, he has nothing for butter. He said we spend more on foreign aid than we should, and we should let China do it, because he said it makes no sense to borrow from China, to give aid to others.

ASSASSINATION: Romney incorrectly thinks it is legal for a President to order the death of Americans suspected of terrorism. He said if an individual allies himself with a group that declared war on the U.S., and bears arms, it is fair to simply execute them.

AFGHANISTAN: Although the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for 10 years, Romney cowardly fails to show any courage, by refusing to pledge a withdrawal, at any time before 2014. He instead promises to defer to the generals and conditions on the ground, code for staying indefinitely. He uses slogans from the Vietnam Era, like we cannot “cut and run,” or withdraw precipitously. The truth of course is we can, if we just did it. It would be easy. While Romney said he will not deal with the Taliban, because he does not negotiate with terrorists, he contradicts himself by saying the Afghans are now free of the Taliban, due to our efforts. Romney dupes unknowing Americans into believing we need to “train” Afghan Security Forces, as if they are utterly stupid, and learned nothing over the past 10 years.

PAKISTAN: Romney wants to make sure Pakistan allows us to go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network, but laments that only 12% of Pakistanis approve of us. He admits we aren’t doing a good job. He thinks Pakistan is fragile, nearly a “failed state.”

IRAN: Romney believes it is unacceptable for Iran to develop nuclear power for energy purposes. He worries they would obtain a nuclear weapon, if Obama is re-elected, and thinks the President should have clearly said we will take military action to keep that from happening. Romney will do what Israel wants, by imposing crippling sanctions against Iran, even though the Iranians have done nothing to the U.S. While it is ok to support the dissidents who took to the streets, and to encourage regime change, if that fails, Romney would make the mistake of using our military to illegally intervene in the internal affairs of Iran.

SYRIA: Romney correctly supports the rebels fighting Syria’s dictatorship, and favors sanctions and covert action to bring down Assad, but instead of justifying his position on democratic principles, he unnecessarily links Syria to Iran. He seriously thinks Hezbollah is at work in Latin America. Get real Mitt.

SAUDI ARABIA: Instead of calling for the end of the absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia, Romney, a weak person, says we should support the backward kingdom, because they support us.

EUROPE: Romney’s ability to speak French is a definite plus by global standards, but a skill that will certainly raise serious suspicion among Tea Party wing nuts. While Romney believes the Europeans should take care of their own problems, he contradicts himself by saying if the economies of the world were collapsing, he would take action. When asked about U.S. contributions to the International Monetary Fund used to help the Euro-Zone, he said the U.S. must focus of our own deficits, but then he contradicts himself saying we need to prevent a contagion from affecting U.S. banks. So, no one really knows what Romney thinks, or what he would do, except perhaps speak French while in France.

RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he considered Russia an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. It was a strange, because the Soviet Union dissolved 20 years ago, and we’ve been allied with Russia for many years now.

America would be better off with Obama, than a man willing to send others into battle, despite his own avoidance of the draft. Romney is far too eager to do what Israel wants. The U.S. needs a strong President, willing to resist the Israeli Lobby. We need to withdraw from Afghanistan, a place where our troops have no winnable mission. Yet Romney promises to stay. We need to avoid additional conflict in Iran, but again Romney is not man enough to keep us out. Romney should not become our leader, as he would be just another weak foreign policy President.

11/29/2011

EU: Not Ready For U.S. of Europe

The origin of the European Union dates back to 1952, when six nations formed the European Coal and Steel Community. The Treaty of Rome (1957) broadened the relationship into a Common Market, known as the European Economic Community (EEC). A European Court of Justice (ECJ) followed to monitor compliance. A Customs Union (1968) was added to abolish duties between members, and to set a common tariff as to foreign goods.

The EEC grew to 12, as the UK, Ireland, and Denmark enlisted in 1973, Greece was added in 1981, and Spain and Portugal joined in 1986. The Schengen Agreement (1985) gave EEC citizens the right of free movement in and out of the other member states.

The EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, under the European Union Treaty. The EU soon grew to 15, as Sweden, Finland, and Austria signed up (1995). Questions arose as to how much power the EU should have, and what authority should be retained by the states. While customs and commercial policy were yielded to the EU, many other law-making areas remained national. Although the EU had a Parliament, questions arose as to the number of votes each state would have in the EU. To correct some of these issues, the Treaty of Nice (2000) was ratified.

At the same time, the EU created an Economic and Monetary Union (1999). A European Central Bank opened in Frankfurt, which issued the Euro (2002), and abolished national currencies. Britain, Denmark, and Sweden opted out of the Euro, as criteria were set for new EU states, before they could adopt the Euro. The states no longer governed monetary policy, as the Central Bank set interest rates. Although the Bank opposed deficits by national governments, members retained control over fiscal policy. Critics of this said the EU could not maintain tight monetary policies, while states were allowed to have expansive fiscal policies.

The EU states made an attempt to be guided by one written Constitution, in lieu of a series of treaties, but the effort failed when France and the Netherlands rejected it (2005). Nevertheless, 10 additional countries became members of the EU in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania brought the number to 27 in 2007.

The states of the EU are currently administered by a 27-member Commission, which is their primary source of legislation. The Commission has the power to issue regulations and directives to states. The EU also has a 27-member Council of Ministers, which has the final say on most legislation. Since each state has one vote in the Council, smaller countries have disproportionate influence. The European Parliament is a 732-member elected body, but it has no general law-making power. It must base what it does on existing treaties. It may challenge the acts of other institutions and reject budget proposals, but the Council remains more powerful. Since the Parliament is relatively weak, issues of representative democracy have been raised. The EU also has a 27-member European Court of Justice which has the authority to review: EU treaties, the conduct EU institutions, and enforcement actions brought against the states.

While the EU currently has law-making functions, they are largely limited by treaty to common market issues. They have no authority to legislate regarding national pensions, or health care, for example. The EU has no general power to tax and spend. Under the current arrangement, it would be difficult for a majority of states to change the behavior of another country.

To complicate matters, it will be a real challenge in Europe to take benefits away, because people have rights to them under various Human Rights Treaties. Europeans enjoy the right to collective bargaining, and protection in the event of an unfair dismissal at work. They have a right to fair and just working conditions. They have a right to social security and health care.

The immediate problem in the EU is national governments control their own fiscal policies, and the crisis of the Euro is without a mechanism to save it. The difficulty in creating a fiscal union, or a political union which would entail a loss of state sovereignty, is the strong sense of nationalism that exists in most European countries. A radical change in thinking will definitely be needed before the peoples of the EU could ever become a United States of Europe.

06/21/2011

European Union Needs More Power

Since 54% of the 483 million-member European Union (EU) come from Germany, France, Britain and Italy, too much is being made of the Euro Crisis, as only 2% of the EU population lives in Greece, 2% in Portugal, and less than 1% in Ireland. The Euro Crisis simply does not directly affect 95% of the European Union.

Britain, one of three to opt out of the Euro, with Denmark and Sweden, is now smirking on the sidelines and hyping the crisis, as the German Bank tries to craft bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland. But British criticism of the Euro-zone is not the answer. The Euro instead needs more, not less power. What the UK could do to help and restore Euro confidence is to boldly abandon the Pound and adopt the Euro.

Here, in America, many are unable to follow the EU story, since the organization did not even exist when they were in school. The EU had its origins with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) (1952), and the Common Market, also known as the European Economic Community (EEC) (1957). The EEC later became the European Community (EC) (1967), and finally the European Union (1992), which now has 27 member states.

The EU established an Economic and Monetary Union, which opened a European Central Bank in Frankfurt (1998), and circulated a Euro Currency (2002). Britain, Denmark and Sweden opted out of the Euro. The Central Bank controls Euro monetary policy and affects national spending, since Euro-zone states are now unable to print their own currencies and must make up for budget shortfalls by borrowing. The EU adopted a Stability and Growth Pact to limit national budget deficits, but Greece, Ireland and Portugal failed to comply. With no money to print, and none to borrow at reasonable rates, a crisis developed.

A European solution is not as easy as the one implemented in the U.S. during the recent financial crisis, where Congress and Federal Reserve Bank stopped things from spinning out of control. Although EU institutions look like those in the U.S., since they have an executive in Brussels (Commission and Council of Ministers), a 732-member Parliament in Strasbourg, and a Court of Justice, in Luxembourg, they are not as strong as their U.S. counterparts. The EU is not really a political union able to make its own decisions, but rather an organization which is dictated to by its 27 member states. The EU Parliament has no general lawmaking power and cannot tax and spend. All the EU can do is issue directives to member states and ask national governments to implement EU policy.

Some say the EU will never become the USA of Europe, but it’s just a matter of time. It took the U.S. 172 years to assemble 50 states in one union across North America, and it will take many years to complete the European Union picture.

For now, instead of Britain, Denmark and Sweden resisting the Euro currency, as they have in the past, they should courageously convert to it and give the EU more power. All 27 member-states should grant their EU institutions the authority they need to keep their currency strong, so they can correct the budgetary problems in the member states, such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

05/30/2011

Bosnia War Crime Trials Must Proceed

The Bosnian War (1992-95), a conflict that has never been easy to explain, is finally moving towards closure, with the arrest in Serbia of Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic.

When the former Yugoslavia dissolved into six countries, namely: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia, some provinces did so in peace, but Bosnia had troubles, because their religions and ethnicities were a Balkanized mix of Bosnian-Muslim, Catholic-Croat, and Orthodox-Serb.

When the Bosnian-Muslims and Bosnian-Croats united to form a Federation, the Bosnian-Serbs set up their own Republika Srpska (RS). This triggered a Civil War (1992-95), during which the Bosnian-Serbs, forcefully removed Bosnian-Croats and Muslims from their homes, in what became known as an ethnic cleansing.

The UN failed to act militarily, because the issue was seen by China and Russia as an internal Yugoslavian affair. The Security Council did however set up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to prosecute war crimes (1993).

After the Bosnian-Serbs attacked Sarajevo (1994), and under the lead of Ratko Mladic, slaughtered 8,000 defenseless Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica (1995), President Bill Clinton and other NATO country leaders finally used air power to stop the Serbs.

The Dayton Peace Accords (1995) recognized both the Bosnian Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Bosnian-Serb Republic (RS). The Federation now occupies 51% of Bosnia, while the RS Republic controls the other 49%, each with their own laws.

Since the war ended 16 years ago, the remaining task has been to bring justice to the victims, or their families, by prosecuting and convicting those who committed war crimes. Those commanders who ordered or allowed torture or murder, are individually responsible for breaching the rights of prisoners and civilians, under the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

Although it took 16 years to capture Mladic, there is no Statute of Limitations as to murder. After his extradition to the Netherlands, the judge must give him a few months to prepare for trial, but after that, the court must proceed promptly, as justice delayed is justice denied, and thus far, there has been no justice as to Mladic.

05/16/2011

Euro Currency Will Survive Crisis

The financial crisis in Greece, Ireland and Portugal would have been strictly national in decades past, but since the circulation of the Euro currency, the matter is now a European Union problem.

The European Union (EU) began when six nations formed the European Economic Community (1957). [1] After Britain, Denmark and Ireland joined (1973), Greece, Spain, and Portugal became members (1980s). Once the EU replaced the EC (1992), Austria, Sweden and Finland were added (1995), followed by 10 largely eastern European countries (2004). [2] Most recently, Romania and Bulgaria pushed EU membership up from 25 to 27 states (2007).

Unlike the U.S., where adopting of the U.S. Dollar is a condition to statehood, membership in the EU, and the use of the Euro, are separate matters. Three EU members opted out of the Euro. Britain stayed with the Pound Sterling, Denmark turned down the Euro in a referendum (2000), and Sweden also voted no (2003).

Britain feared the European Central Bank in Frankfurt would set interest rates, and their own Bank of England would lose control. They felt they could maintain better economic stability, lower inflation, and less unemployment, by continuing with the Pound.

Sweden’s vote against the Euro was based on a fear recessions would cause big states like Germany to take over their economy, and they would lose their welfare system. The issue was so hot Foreign Minister Lindh was assassinated for promoting the Euro.

Today, even though the EU has 27 members, only 17 have adopted the Euro, as their currency. [3] While five European states, that are not EU members, also use the currency, [4] there remain 10 EU nations that have not yet converted. Seven however agreed, when they joined the EU, to replace their currencies over time. [5]

Despite the recent crisis in Greece, Portugal and Ireland, it is just a matter of time before the Euro is adopted throughout Europe. Once all of those admitted to the European Union in 2004 and 2007 start using the Euro, more nations will join the EU, such as Macedonia, Croatia Serbia, Bosnia, Albania and Iceland, and they too will adopt the currency. Those not seeking EU membership, like Norway Liechtenstein and Switzerland will soon become isolated as to their money, and pressure will build to accept it, or people will simply start using Euros as a matter of fact.

The first near decade of the Euro has been a major success. Along with the U.S. Dollar, it is now the world’s most valued currency. One can reasonably predict that after the EU solves the crisis in Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the Euro will only emerge even stronger than it was before the recent economic troubles began.


[1] Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany and Italy

[2] Poland, Hungary, Czech Rep., Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus

[3] Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, France, Italy, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia, Estonia

[4] Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Montenegro, Kosovo

[5] Czech Rep. (koruna), Poland (zloty), Latvia (lats), Hungary (forint), Lithuania (litas), Romania (leu) and Bulgaria (lev)