Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
In 2000, the European Union set its sights on becoming the world’s most dynamic, knowledge-based economy by 2010. It failed. Economic recession hardly helped, but EU officials acknowledge its goals may have been a little too ambitious.
On Wednesday the European Commission, the EU executive, unveiled a new 10-year plan to boost economic growth and create jobs. The Europe 2020 strategy is intended to create a greener and more prosperous economy and will be the centrepiece of the EU’s efforts to emerge from financial crisis.
Can the 2020 strategy succeed where its predecessor, the Lisbon Agenda, failed?
Commission officials say it can. They say there will be fewer targets, they will be more realistic and member states’ compliance will be monitored more closely. With a bit of political will and a lot of hard effort, they say, the plan can succeed.
“I think now people are far more aware we need to work far more together. The economic governance of Europe is now taken on board much more,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference.
The European Union seems to have developed a habit of shooting itself in the foot.
The latest self-inflicted wound was an attack on Wednesday by a euro-sceptic British member of the European Parliament who dismissed Herman Van Rompuy, the new EU president, as a “damp rag” who had no legitimacy and threatened democracy.
As the new European Union executive prepares to debate fresh policy proposals which might unblock the stalemate over approving genetically modified crops for feed, processing or cultivation, there are few signs that Europe’s fears over what some have termed “Frankenstein foods” are easing.
On Friday Bulgaria’s ruling GERB party proposed a five-year moratorium on the production of genetically modified (GM) crops for scientific and commercial reasons following public outcry over a new legislation.
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.
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.
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.
European Union and NATO officials have joined forces in calling
for new efforts to ensure women are more involved in peacekeeping
and conflict resolution. But differences remain on how to do so, and
on whether gender quotas are the solution.
When it comes to further sanctions on Iran, the clock is ticking relentlessly, even if those leading the drive – the United States, Britain, Germany and France — are giving little away in terms of timing or what might be targeted under any new, U.N.-agreed package.
Still, companies that do business with Iran appear to be getting the message that time is running out.
Much criticism has been heaped on the European Union — the vast majority of it by its own member states — for not being seen to do enough to help Haiti after the Caribbean state’s earthquake.
Never mind the fact EU states and the European Commission have promised a combined 400 million euros ($575 million) in aid and long-term reconstruction. In public relations terms, the sums have all but been eclipsed by images, beamed around the world, of volunteer U.S. firemen pulling victims from the rubble, and emergency aid workers from the likes of Israel and Brazil running much-needed field hospitals.