Friday, 16 November 2012

Who is Captain Europe?

For two years, Brussels has grappled with a mystery that has taken on a sort of legendary aura – who is Captain Europe? Tonight, I may finally discover the answer.

The caped crusader – pictured right – appears suddenly at various events around Brussels, dressed head to toe in euro-blue spandex. When the EU won the Nobel Peace prize last month, he was spotted at Place du Luxembourg (known affectionately by Eurocrats as ‘Plux’) shortly afterwards waving an EU flag and working the crowd into a frenzy of eurenthusiasm. Wherever euro-spirits are down, he suddenly appears to save the day. His tweets are a consistent source of amusement.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A relief for Europe - but will gridlock persist?

Anxious Europeans have been able to breathe easier the past two days, after Tuesday’s reelection of US president Barack Obama. But the relief has much more to do with the defeat of Mitt Romney than with Obama himself.

Europe isn’t the only place feeling relieved because of a dislike for Romney. Outside Israel, there probably wasn’t one country on the globe that was excited about the prospect of a Romney presidency.

The Republican candidate's dangerous rhetoric seemed almost guaranteed to launch a war with Iran which no US allies would have been keen to sign up to. He had described Russia as America’s “greatest geopolitical foe” and had spoken of China as if it was the evil empire, promising to “get tough” with them in a way Obama hadn’t (although he never provided details about what that would mean). Latin America recoiled at his extreme anti-immigration rhetoric, and Africa was less than excited about his promises to cut US overseas aid.

In Brussels, there is a sense that long-stalled bilateral issues that were waiting until the resolution of the election can finally be taken off the back burner. There is (perhaps na├»ve) hope that a second-term Obama can show up to the UN climate summit in Doha next month with a reverse-course on the US intransigence in taking action to combat global warming. Negotiations on a US-EU free trade deal can now begin. Most importantly – fears that Europe was about to see a return to the trans-Atlantic tensions that marked the George W. Bush era have now been allayed.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The case for four more years? Look at the previous four

Rachel Maddow had an excellent review of Obama's first term last night. It's bizarre that anyone would say the American president "hasn't done anything" in his first term. Historic legislative actions were taken during the first two years. And even after the Republican takeover of the US Congress in 2010 ground all legislative activity to a halt, Obama still took important executive decisions over the following two years that could bypass the congress. Let's take a little stroll down memory lane, shall we?

Europeans are very anxious about the result of today's election in the US. It would appear that it is now up to 8 million people in Ohio to decide the fate of the world. Hopefully they will make the right decision.