European union

Viktor Orban is not abandoning Europe

The news that Hungary and China have signed a security pact, following a visit by to Budapest by Wang Xiaohong, Minister of Public Security, has been a long time in the making. In 2012, two years after beginning his second term as Prime Minister, Viktor Orban formally re-orientated Hungary’s economic and foreign policy under the slogan of the ‘Eastern Opening’. Orban understood the frustration that had returned him to power with a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Two decades of integration with western Europe had made plenty of Hungarians prosperous, but not the majority.  The introduction of the free market in Hungary was accompanied by the mass closure of businesses, and

How divided is Europe on China?

39 min listen

The word ‘West’ is often used as a shorthand to describe liberal democracies in Europe, and perhaps in Asia too, such that we’ll often talk about ‘the West’s attitude to China’, or the ‘West’s relations with China’. But this is at best a lazy shorthand – because when you dig a little deeper, it’s clear that there is no unified West on China. On this episode, I’m joined by Noah Barkin, senior advisor at the Rhodium Group and author of the Watching China in Europe newsletter with the German Marshall Fund, to disaggregate the idea of ‘the West’, focusing especially on the continent of Europe. How do different European nation

The problem with Macron’s vision for Europe

The Ukraine crisis has transformed international affairs, forcing countries the world over to rethink their alliances and interests. New patterns are forming that will probably stay in place for many years – and one outcome is that global deals are being seen as more effective than regional ones. Sweden and Finland look set to join Nato, and Britain has agreed a defence deal with Japan. In theory, EU countries are required to come to the help of any member that is attacked, but Sweden and Finland feel that only Nato membership (which offers a place under America’s nuclear umbrella) can afford them true protection. As they wait for the applications

How Turkey is fuelling the Belarus-Poland migrant crisis

In the cold, damp forest lining the border between Poland and Belarus, thousands of refugees flown over from the Middle East have waiting to cross into the EU for days. Belarusian riot police are shoving them away from their gates and towards Poland, where only more forces await. The Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has recently been in conflict with the EU, which has imposed sanctions on his regime after last year’s contested elections which many believe to have been rigged. Lukashenko is pushing refugees towards Poland to be pawns in a fight, with the backing of Putin. The refugees find themselves between a rock and a hard place: in front

Ripping up the Northern Ireland protocol is diplomacy in action

Lord Frost’s Lisbon speech represents the most cogent argument yet for replacing the Northern Ireland protocol. So naturally it has been buried under a slurry of snark, solemn head-shaking and breathless indignation. It is worth stepping back from the noise. Switch off the shouty man on LBC, mute the ‘this is not normal’ people on Twitter, and avoid at all costs the catastrophist-analysis of the academic-activists. You will miss nothing. In fact, read Frost’s speech for yourself. It was meant to send a message about the protocol and it does so directly. The Irish are our neighbours. It is in both our countries’ interests that we maintain and enhance the ties

Jonathan Miller

Macronism is dead

President Emmanuel Macron was in an expansive mood this week as he presented his vision for France 2030 from the Elysée palace before an audience of business leaders and students. Macron is incapable of brevity. In a slick production that must have cost a fortune, presented to a fawning hand-picked audience, he spoke for two hours. His elocution was framed by a slick, Tik-Tokish video recalling the 30 glorious years of French economic growth and grand projects after the war. Macron is nothing if not busy. He’s just been on a series of pre-election grand tours, dispensing billions of euros in promises like confetti. That includes a proposed repair of

Is the EU trying to hamstring the French military?

Much recent discussion has focussed on the collapse of Afghanistan and the decline of the West. The humiliating American-led Western retreat from Kabul is most poignant for the signal it sends to other ‘protected’ states, present-day and future. The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, Global Times, mockingly jibed in its editorial at the history of America abandoning its allies and warning how this might be an omen for Taiwan. But the Afghan smokescreen has obscured another aspect of Western decline: a European Court of Justice ruling of 15 July enforcing the same restrictions on ‘work time’ for member states’ military personnel as for any other worker, except on clearly specified military operations. If

Guy Verhofstadt claims Olympic gold for the EU

Who is on top of the gold medal table at the Tokyo Olympics? China? The United States?  According to former European parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt, it is, in fact, the European Union that is triumphing at the games. While you have to go down to seventh place in the Olympics leader board to find an EU country (Germany), Verhofstadt appears to have his own scoreboard:  ‘Fun fact,’ he wrote on Twitter: ‘EU combined has more gold medals than US or China’. Verhofstadt went on to say that he would ‘love to see the EU flag next to the national on athletes’ clothes’.  Mr S wonders whether this is all just a ploy to ensure that Verhofstadt’s Belgium

Should the EU diversify – with blockchain?

The European Investment Bank has warned that the EU is not investing enough in blockchain — the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies — and artificial intelligence. In a report released Tuesday, the EIB wrote that the EU is falling behind both China and the US in these two areas, with the funding gap estimated at between €5 billion and €10 billion annually. This is problematic because, as the bank argues, AI and blockchain are two of the most significant disruptive technologies of our time, and they will have a major impact on the future economy. At present, the US and China account for more than 80 per cent of annual equity

The EU’s decline is self-inflicted

In 1991, at the height of the first Gulf War, the EU demonstrated to the world its divisions and helplessness, as Belgium infamously blocked the export of munitions to the UK, then at war in the Gulf. They quickly came to regret it. The Belgian Foreign Minister subsequently remarked tellingly: ‘Europe is an economic giant, a political dwarf and a military worm’. It seems these days that little has changed, save that even the EU’s claim to be an ‘economic giant’ is eroding with the loss of the world’s fifth largest economy, a dwindling share of world trade and a catatonic growth rate, even before the pandemic. Worse still, much

The EU’s vaccine catastrophe is a crisis of its own making

As news emerges that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are cutting supplies of their Covid-19 vaccines to the EU by up to 60 per cent, EU officials are turning on the drug companies, threatening fines and lawsuits if they don’t speed up deliveries. The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has blasted the delays as unacceptable and threatened to take the companies to court. While the European Council President Charles Michel is threatening to use ‘all the legal means at our disposal’ to make the drugs companies ‘respect the contracts’ signed with the EU. But hold on, because on closer inspection it turns out that much of the unfolding vaccine catastrophe in

The EU is a divided house

What does 2021 hold for the European Union? At the end of 2020 Brussels has gone out of its way to engage in unity-signalling, announcing that all 27 members will begin vaccination on the same day and feigning a united front in the face of the UK’s new strain of coronavirus. But in truth its 27 member states are confronted by serious structural divisions in three fundamental areas: economics, culture, defence. Deep economic divisions surfaced in the EU after the 2008 financial crash along a north-south axis. The split between the richer ‘frugal’ northern economies and the ‘profligate’ southerners was starkest in 2012-13 over Brussels’ treatment of Greece. Papered over

Britain’s bizarre Italian travel guidance

Here’s a tip. When the Foreign Office advises against going somewhere, hop on the next plane. The mandarins have advised against visiting Italy because of Covid-19. It’s as bizarre as everything else that our rulers have said about the virus. Confirmed cases in the UK are currently more than twice as high per 100,000 as in Italy. Anyone with our welfare at heart should be telling us to go to Italy at once. I left the next day. The Italians could be forgiven for serving us our own medicine and quarantining all arrivals from the UK. As it is, they test you at the airport, and quarantine is only required

Brexit, if used properly, can speed Britain’s post-Corona recovery

Will the recovery be shaped like a V or a U, some other letter or perhaps the Nike swoosh? This is a much-discussed question among economists right now — but it is not the most important question. We’re familiar with the idea of an up-and-down financial crisis where things return to their starting point: we had roller-coasters in the mid-1980s. Even after the global financial crash of 2008-09, financiers still kept their place as masters of the universe. Global supply chains were repaired and the old power structures remained in position. This time might be very different. Old fixes are being applied to a new crisis. Central banks, for example,

The man who defined Labour’s forgotten past

To read this long-overdue and welcome biography of Peter Shore is to undergo a journey from Labour’s eurosceptic heights in the 1960s to its demise as a party of the nation state in the 1990s. Titled Labour’s Forgotten Patriot, patriotism is a theme which constantly recurs and, to a considerable extent, defined Shore’s political life. Peter Shore has been a rather neglected figure. This is odd since he had considerable influence over Labour politics for two decades and was probably the staunchest defender of Britain’s independence. A Cambridge Apostle, rising star in the Labour Research Department of the 1950s and part author of three consecutive Labour general election manifestos, Shore came

In defence of Sadiq Khan’s EU citizenship plan

Sadiq Khan has ventured to Brussels today to meet with European Union negotiators. London’s mayor has a plan to convince EU officials to offer Brits ‘associate citizenship’ after the Brexit implementation period ends this year. The citizenship would grant Brits continued access to freedom of movement and residency within the EU, along with a possible host of other rights linked to healthcare, welfare and voting in European Parliamentary elections. The bid, Khan says, is for ‘heartbroken’ Londoners and others. Of course, Khan is extremely unlikely to be successful. Although London’s mayor wants associate citizenship to be high up on the negotiating agenda when it comes the ‘future relationship’, it’s probably