The Great Debate UK

Italy – the new good man of Europe

Up until Monday, Italy used to be known as the sick man of Europe. It has huge debts, sclerotic growth and had been ruled by a billionaire prone to a bunga-bunga parties. It was at risk of becoming the laughing stock of the currency bloc. The relationship in recent years between Italy and Germany has been dreadful. But could things be about to change?

Italy could become the best man of Europe after the EU elections last weekend. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party won an impressive 33% of the vote, beating off competition from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo. Silvio Belusconi’s Forza Italia was left straggling in Renzi’s wake with only 18% of the vote.

This contrasts sharply with France, where the anti-EU, far-right Front National beat President Francois Hollande’s Socialists, leaving the President clinging to power. The win for Marine Le Pen’s party could shift the power dynamics in the euro zone, leaving a space open for Matteo Renzi to get Italy back from the periphery and into the core of Europe.

The German-Franco alliance looks shaky following the win for Front National. Now that Italy has rejected an anti-euro political force, Angela Merkel could start to warm towards Rome. If Merkel can open her arms to Italy then the third largest economy in the currency bloc could score a PR coup, and solidify itself in the heart of the currency bloc.

Scepticism about the state runs deep

–Sheila Lawlor is Director of the London think tank, Politeia. The opinions expressed are her own.–

As UKIP’s earthquake materialises, with the party topping the European poll and the Conservative party narrowly missing second place, a shift in the political landscape is underway. Even before counting of the council votes had finished, or that for the European parliament had begun, the message from voters was clear – people were returning to the values with which they most readily identify: socialist or conservative.

Why Antwerp is under threat as the world’s diamond trading centre

–Vashi Dominguez is the founder of Vashi.com. The opinions expressed are his own.–

When the European Union and the U.S. took action against Russia over the invasion of Crimea and the crisis in Eastern Ukraine, alarm bells immediately rang for the diamond industry. Russia is one of the biggest suppliers ($2.8 billion last year) of rough diamonds for Belgium, through which 80% of all rough diamonds and 50% of all polished stones pass. If Antwerp were to lose access to Russia’s diamonds, it would be the latest in a string of challenges facing the world’s diamond trading centre.

from The Great Debate:

Meet the Tea Party — European edition

schneider combo

Europe finally has its own Tea Party. Or something like it.

Last weekend, citizens of 21 nations elected members of a new European parliament. The result? An outpouring of rage.

Angry voters across the continent and Britain cast ballots for protest parties, mostly on the far right, which doubled their number of seats and now account for close to one third of the parliament. French Prime Minister Manuel Vallis called the vote “more than a news alert . . . it is a shock, an earthquake.”

from The Great Debate:

Poland’s example may offer Ukraine a way out

FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT AND SOLIDARITY FOUNDING LEADER LECH WALESA SHOWS V-SIGN IN 1989.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, Ukraine has tried -- and repeatedly failed -- to transform itself into a stable, prosperous democracy. The presidential elections on Sunday, May 25 offers another opportunity to make that happen, for Ukraine to come out from Russia’s shadow and the shadow of its own corrupt post-Soviet limping economy.

While understandably preoccupied with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s designs on the eastern part of their country, Ukraine’s new rulers should look to their western neighbor for lessons on how to succeed. On June 4, Poland will commemorate the 25th anniversary of its historic elections that swept out the Communist regime  and produced a government led by the opposition Solidarity movement. What happened next launched Poland on the path from poverty to prosperity, from dictatorship to democracy, and from the Warsaw Pact to full integration with the West, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and EU membership.

from The Great Debate:

Secrecy’s out, so here’s what Swiss banks can still offer

brady555

If Swiss banks were to cast off their usual discretion and make a marketing pitch these days, it might start off something like this:

Dear Potential Client,

While we would be delighted to open an account and manage your money for you, once you’ve complied with our anti-money laundering provisions, please be advised that we will no longer be able to help you avoid taxes back home, and in fact may soon start providing account details to your national tax authorities. Moreover, if you are American, please stay away. We’ve been so beaten up by the Justice Department that we’d rather not take your money at all.

from The Great Debate:

Europe is under siege from both the left and right

eu combo

Elections will begin on Thursday across the 28 European Union member states to elect national representatives to the European Parliament, which regulates trade, borders and some elements of foreign policy. Though this is a continent-wide election, voters historically use it to send a message to their own nation’s governing party. With the meteoric rise of anti-European populism on the political left and right, however, things promise to buck that trend this time.

This was not how things were supposed to be. Five years ago, at a meeting of the European Union’s heads of state and government in Lisbon, Portugal, European leaders signed a treaty that foresaw these elections as defining the political direction of the European Union. This week’s elections are supposed to mark a turning point, as competing progressive, liberal, green and conservative visions of Europe’s future vied for popular support.

from The Great Debate:

Fires in Vietnam could ultimately burn Beijing

vietnam

The spilling of blood and burning of factories by anti-Chinese rioters sweeping across Vietnam reinforces Beijing’s message to other countries claiming territory in the South China Sea: resistance is costly and ultimately futile.

But a region in which anti-Chinese sentiment grows and where sovereignty disputes disrupt trade and economic growth will burn Beijing as well. Over the long term, a commitment to peaceful dispute resolution in accordance with international law, including some concessions on historic claims, would serve China better than its current path.

The Great Sleep Debate

Not that long ago everyone was lamenting the slovenliness of the British public. We didn’t work hard enough, took too many holidays and anxiety was rising about how we would ever keep up with our harder-working, more productive peers in China and the East. However, the tides is changing and, guess what, slovenliness is back.

Slovenliness is not quite accurate, but these days we can’t read a paper without being told that we need to get more sleep, be more mindful, take better care of ourselves and quit our technology addictions. Apparently, our need to tweet, check email and watch the latest Game of Thrones is literally killing us. Experts from Harvard, Cambridge and Surrey Universities have put together a report on humans and our need for sleep, and have come to the conclusion that we are arrogant to ignore our circadian rhythms.

from The Great Debate:

The fight for a global minimum wage

Demonstrators gather during a nationwide strike and protest at fast food restaurants to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 in New YorkOn Thursday, fast-food workers in more than 30 countries across six continents will take coordinated action on an unprecedented scale. In the United States, they will walk off their jobs in 150 cities -- the largest strike ever. Workers around the world will join these protests in 80 cities.

The protestors are set to take over a McDonald’s during lunchtime rush hour in Belgium; hold flash-mobs at McDonald’s restaurants across the Philippines, and conduct a teach-in at McDonald’s headquarters in New Zealand.

  •