Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Ins and outs

As the British seek new EU opt-outs, Danes will likely vote to end theirs.

Over the past several years, as UK prime minister David Cameron has taken his country further and further toward the EU exit door, he has been keen to stress that the UK is not alone in its desire for a more devolved EU. He points to the increasingly Eurosceptic Dutch, who have, like the UK, recently conducted a review of the EU's powers. He points to the Danes and Swedes, who are also voluntarily remaining outside the Eurozone.

So when news came this week that it now looks likely that Denmark will hold an ‘EU referendum' next year, it may have seemed like welcome news for the British Conservatives. Cameron has attracted a large amount of ill will on the continent by scheduling an in/out EU referendum for the UK in 2017. But why should Britain be singled out for scorn, when the Danes are holding their own EU referendum?

However the Danish case is a very different animal. The British referendum will be a vote on a theoretical new EU-UK relationship which the government will negotiate, giving the UK more opt-outs from EU law. The Danish referendum will be the opposite – a vote on whether to end the opt-outs Denmark negotiated for itself back in 1992.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Russia's '1936 games'?

Relations between the United States and Russia seemed to hit a post-cold-war low this week when president Barack Obama cancelled a bilateral meeting with Vladimir Putin ahead of next month's G20 summit in St. Petersburg.

 After years of tension over Syria, missile defense and human rights, Russia's decision to grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowdon was the straw that broke the camel's back. But the real low point in relations may have come during an appearance this week by the US president on America's most watched comedy show.

 During an interview on The Tonight Show on Tuesday (6 August), the US president sat impassively as the show's long-time host Jay Leno compared the Russian regime to the Nazis and Vladimir Putin to Hitler. Leno was referring specifically to Russia's recent passage of a law banning the ‘promotion' of homosexuality and an accompanying rise of gruesome vigilante attacks on Russian gays by far-right groups.