Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Every new year brings resolutions, and the European Parliament is no exception.
Often derided as a multi-lingual talking shop, the institution is feeling newly invigorated by some fresh faces and by the European Union’s Lisbon reform treaty, which came into force late last year and gives the 736-member parliament more say in drafting laws and acting as a check on legislation.
Almost immediately, parliamentarians were letting their voice be heard, forcing Bulgaria to withdraw its nominee for the European Commission last month because she wasn’t seen to be up to the job. They also look ready to block an agreement between the EU and the United States on sharing data on bank transfers, and are really beginning to show their teeth when it comes to financial sector reform.
It’s one aspect of the latter move — reported exclusively by Reuters on Monday — which is set to cast MEPs in the role of banker-bashers-in-chief and could put them on a collision course with national governments.
Some senior MEPs are threatening to spoil a plan to set up new EU banking watchdogs because they believe the watchdogs’ power has been watered down even before they’ve been set up by a deal struck among some finance ministers.
In many corners of the world, the policy on gays in the military could be labeled this way: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Care.”
In the military establishments of more than 30 countries, including U.S. allies such as Israel, Canada and the United Kingdom, gays and lesbians are allowed to openly serve in their country’s military.
So there’s no question Greece has work to do to improve its bookkeeping.
Not only must it get spending in check, but it needs to be a bit more honest about where its finances stand in the first place. After all, it’s not often an EU country says one month that its budget deficit is a little over three percent of GDP and admits a few weeks later that, oh dear, it’s actually nearer 13 percent.
Yet it’s hard not to have a little sympathy for Greece at the same time.
Its government bonds have been hammered and the price it has to pay to finance its debt has soared as financial markets have relentlessly taken it to task over the past six weeks for its profligacy.
from Tales from the Trail:
U.S. lawmakers, convening a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the threat posed by al Qaeda in Yemen, found themselves focused on another problem stalking the impoverished Arab country: the mild drug qat, which permeates Yemeni society.
Rep. Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, launched the discussion of Yemen's drug problem in his opening remarks, noting that qat was "a narcotic plant that produces feelings of euphoria and stimulation, but ultimately undermines individual initiative -- sort of like being in Congress."
China’s irate reaction to the Obama administration’s approval of a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan comes at a delicate time amid already growing tensions between the two global heavyweights.
The United States appears to be taking tougher stance on China than last year and Beijing is pushing back with confidence. In their latest quarrel, China lashed out at news of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan with a swift and strident reaction, raising red flags about the emerging power’s increasingly tense relationship with the United States. (In Taiwan, most back the deal.)
Germany has signalled it is ready to pay a thief who stole secret bank data in Switzerland in order to collect a small fortune in taxes and fines for tax evasion. According to media reports, the data may relate to money held by 1,500 Germans dodging taxes by hiding their money in Swiss bank accounts.
But is it right for a state based on the rule of law to pay for stolen data? Is it a question of the ends justifying the means (exitus acta probat)? Or is it simply a modern form of bank robbery, like a Swiss lawmaker called it so colorfully on Tuesday?
It’s a question that has caused a stir on both sides of the German-Swiss border. Do two wrongs make a right? Can stolen data be used as evidence in court? Or is acceptable for a state to reward a thief in the pursuit of the greater good of fighting tax evasion — seen as a more serious crime?
Silvio Berlusconi is seldom shy about making headlines, and he’s also known to turn on the charm when he meets foreign leaders.
So it was hardly surprising the Italian prime minister kicked off a three-day visit to Israel on Monday by declaring his hope that Israel might one day become a member of the European Union.
Try as it might, the European Union’s efforts to act like a bigger player in world affairs keep running into obstacles.
The latest setback is a report that President Barack Obama won’t be able to make it to the annual EU-U.S. summit this year, pencilled in for Madrid in May. A hectic domestic agenda and the fact the U.S. president made 10 foreign trips last year — more than any other president in his first year in office — means staying at home is the priority and the Europe Union will have to wait.