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Insights from the UK and beyond

from The Great Debate:

Europe is under siege from both the left and right

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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.

Instead, Europe is in a mess -- and the future of the European Union seems in doubt.

eu elections -- parliamentEuropean Parliament political groups have decided to use the Lisbon Treaty for a power grab, interpreting a vague commitment about political direction as their right to nominate and impose candidates for president of the European Commission. Yet the real winners in this week's election are likely to be the anti-European populists now calling for a dissolution of Europe.

from Global News Journal:

EU delivers its own “State of the Union” address

The European Union talks frequently about wanting to be a bigger player in the world, about making its political influence match its economic weight and the need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States.

And at least in one respect it can now say it's America's equal -- both have a State of the Union address.

Relaxed Brown up for election fight

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brownHe’s 10 points behind in the polls but Gordon Brown is clearly not going down without a fight.

With an election likely in less than 90 days, the Prime Minister seems to be relishing the prospect of taking on the Conservatives and he thinks he can win.

from Global News Journal:

Does Washington care about the EU?

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.

from Global News Journal:

EU’s Ashton seeks stronger ties with U.S.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

Catherine Ashton has signalled her intention of giving the European Union's relationship with the United States more prominence in her new role as the EU's high representative for foreign affairs.

How productive that relationship proves to be depends largely on how much Washington believes it needs the EU and how much it deals with the European Union as a whole, rather than with its member states one-to-one.

from Global News Journal:

EU catches up in race to help Haiti

OUKTP-UK-QUAKE-HAITI-UNIn the six days since a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, the world has responded with vast amounts of aid and promises of long-term reconstruction, something the Caribbean country's creaking infrastructure desperately needs.

The World Bank and the United States pledged $100 million each, the United Nations promised $10 million and announced a "flash" appeal for $500 million more, and dozens of companies including Google, Microsoft and Bank of America committed $1 million a piece. Hollywood stars, rap singers and tennis champions all immediately raised money themselves or lent their support to encourage donations to the relief effort.

Is Blair the man for the EU job?

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BLAIR/Once he was regarded as an obvious front-runner for the job of EU president, then it was pointed out that it was unlikely anyone would be chosen from a country that is not in the eurozone, not in the Schengen border-free area and which has an exemption to the bloc’s charter of fundamental rights.

Ah, but if you don’t choose someone with proven political clout to fight Europe’s corner, a G2 of China and the United States will have things all their own way soon, declared Foreign Secretary David Miliband over the weekend.

A limited EU referendum?

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eu.jpgIreland is the only EU member holding a referendum on the treaty.

A “No” vote would topple a Europe-wide project designed to replace a rejected constitution and end years of diplomatic wrangling over institutional reform.

Yet Ireland accounts for less than 1 percent of the bloc’s 490 million population.

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