The Great Debate UK

from Anatole Kaletsky:

An ‘atomic bomb’ is hovering over France’s economy

France's President Hollande and German Chancellor Merkel talk during a conference on jobs in Milan

An “atomic bomb” is about to blow up in “the confrontation between Paris and Brussels.”

It was in these terms that Le Figaro, perhaps the most influential French newspaper, reported the European Commission’s near-certain rejection of President Francois Hollande’s 2015 budget on Oct. 29.  That is the date the commission must issue a judgment on the French budget, which proposes a two-year delay in reducing the  budget deficit to the EU-mandated maximum of 3 percent of gross domestic product.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted that she will not tolerate any such relaxation of the European Union’s new, toughened budget rules. Meanwhile, Hollande has stated repeatedly that France will refuse any demands from Brussels for more cuts.

A full-scale budget war between Paris and Berlin/Brussels looks inevitable, with catastrophic effects on the European economy and markets. But on closer inspection, this impending budget battle is no more lethal than the fiscal shadow-boxing in Washington last year.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Why this Ukraine ceasefire will stick

A boy sits on an APC as he poses for a picture during a parade in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine

The war in eastern Ukraine, which has had more impact on the European economy than any news coming out of Frankfurt or Brussels, appears to be ending. Despite the sporadic attacks that have wrecked previous ceasefire attempts.

Investors have mostly assumed that the ceasefire would not hold, either because Russian President Vladimir Putin is deceitful and greedy for more territorial conquest, or because Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko would not accept the splintering of his country that Russia demands. But this fashionable pessimism is probably wrong.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Why breaking up Britain could tear apart the EU, too

A bunch of 'Yes' balloons are seen as Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond campaigns in Edinburgh, Scotland

While recent opinion polls have swung slightly back toward the "no" camp, there remains a distinct possibility that Thursday's Scottish referendum will trigger a previously unthinkable breakup of Britain.

If this were to happen, the biggest risks for global businesses and investors do not lie in the economic problems created by Scotland’s choice of currency or the inevitable arguments about sharing North Sea oil revenue and the British national debt. These are crucial challenges for Scotland and have been much discussed in financial institutions and think tanks. But the crucial issue for the world economy and financial markets is about the resulting impact on the European Union -- and especially on Britain, which would remain the world’s sixth largest economy even if Scotland departs.

Why Scottish independence matters for Europe

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Should the EU head honchos in Brussels be quaking in their boots at the prospect of a less United Kingdom come September 18? The repercussions of a yes vote could cause a domino effect that may eventually lead to the break-up of the European Union.

This may seem dramatic, but how someone decides to vote in Glasgow could alter the course of modern history. The prospect of a not-so Great Britain could make it easier for the Conservatives to get re-elected at next year’s General Election. One of the Tories’ pledges, if they do get re-elected, is to hold a referendum on UK membership to the EU in 2017. Without a pro-EU Scottish voter base, there is a real chance that the UK could vote to leave the EU.

from The Great Debate:

Putin’s already paying dearly for Ukraine – and looks willing to sacrifice much more

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted a “go it alone” approach throughout the Ukraine crisis and regularly describes his country as “independent” and nonaligned. But Moscow is not as isolated as Putin makes out. The fact that he cannot see this reality -- or chooses to ignore it -- has produced a series of decisions that has seriously undermined Russia’s global role.

For the past two decades, Moscow has viewed its foray into global institutions as a major success. It has increasingly integrated into the global economy.  Those achievements, however, now present Putin with a major dilemma.

from The Great Debate:

Putin’s anti-American rhetoric now persuades his harshest critics

People I know in Russia, members of the intelligentsia and professionals who have long been critical of President Vladimir Putin’s anti-Western stance, have suddenly turned into America-bashers. Many have been swept away by Putin’s arguments that the United States, not the Kremlin, is destabilizing Ukraine.

Since the current crisis broke in Ukraine over its efforts to side with the European Union rather than Russia, Putin has been at war with the United States. He seems intent on proving that a U.S.-centric world order is over and that Europe should decide on its own what its relations with Russia will be.

from The Great Debate:

Sanctions finally find Russia’s Achilles heel

Russia's President Vladimir Putin gestures as he chairs a government meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama were reportedly engaged in a heated telephone conversation last Thursday when Putin noted in passing that an aircraft had gone down in Ukraine. The tragic crash of the Malaysian airliner in rebel-held eastern Ukraine continues to dominate the headlines, but it is important to remember what agitated Putin and prompted the phone call in the first place -- sanctions.

Sanctions against Russia have been the centerpiece of the U.S. response to Putin’s interference in Ukraine. While they primarily have been directed against prominent friends of Putin and their businesses, the underlying target has been a weak Russian economy.  The sanctions have definitely found Russia’s Achilles’ heel, and with harsher sanctions looming in the aftermath of flight MA17, Putin is finding it increasingly difficult to craft an effective reply.

Europe needs smarter education and research investment

Anka Mulder–Anka Mulder is Vice-President for Education and Operations at Delft University of Technology.  She was formerly Global President of the OpenCourseWare consortium.—

Education and research infrastructure, such as laboratory facilities and digital learning networks, play an increasingly important role in diffusing knowledge and technology to enhance prosperity. At a time when the overall EU budget has decreased for the first time ever, education and research programmes such as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 continue to receive significant funding increases, but Europe is still falling behind other areas of the world in building digital infrastructure.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

How EU politics pushed Merkel to lift Germany’s austerity policies

German Chancellor Merkel and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Juncker hold a joint news conference after a meeting in Luxembourg

Matteo Renzi, the prime minister of Italy who took the revolving presidency of the European Union this week, seems to be the sort of man that Napoleon was referring to when he reputedly said that the key qualification he sought in recruiting a general was good luck.

Renzi become prime minister without even needing to win an election because Silvio Berlusconi and all other rivals self-destructed. He took power just after Italy passed the lowest ebb of its economic fortunes. In May, he was rewarded for his good fortune by Italy’s voters, who anointed him with a strong democratic mandate in the same European elections that discredited almost all Europe’s other national leaders. Now he is taking the helm in Europe, as an economic recovery is starting and the European Central Bank is swinging decisively in support of growth.

Youth is the answer to the EU’s troubling voter turnout rate

MJC–Dr Marie Julie Chenard is Deputy Head of the Cold War Studies Programme at LSE IDEAS and Academic Officer for the Dahrendorf Symposium Project at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The opinions expressed are her own.–

The European elections are the second biggest exercise in democracy world-wide (behind India). Nearly 400 million EU citizens were eligible to vote their representatives to the European Parliament between the 22nd and 25th May, but only 43% actually did. What can be done to increase participation in elections that have an impact on 500 million people?

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