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International Political Economy

Government debt is a burgeoning issue, but the solutions are thus far a damp squib. Despite claims otherwise, the debt crisis is not one that has been solved – not even partially. Recently, European leaders saluted an agreement on settling  part of Greece’s outstanding debt– largely by canceling it. Yet, European governments have merely found a way to roll debt over, with debt levels scheduled to increase further, at least until 2016. Interest rates on government bonds should increase correspondingly – hence the rating agencies’ downgrades. Unless we encounter solid growth throughout Europe, we are heading toward further turmoil. Far from attempting to be pessimistic, I solely seek to reflect on the reality of the situation and what it may entail for the future. What leaders haven’t …

Last week the World Bank released a massive 400-page report, China 2030, outlining a vision for reforming the country’s economy over the next two decades to ensure continued success. As is typical in these kinds of reports, the main findings are completely reasonable if not exactly ground-breaking: China needs to increase the share of consumption in its economy, lessen the grip of state-owned enterprises, move toward letting the market more accurately price energy and capital, deal more seriously with environmental degradation, and just generally become a more market-oriented economy.  All of which makes perfect sense, and indeed very sensible people have been suggesting more or less this same package of reforms for several years now. But this is all easier …

As 25 of the EU’s 27 member states signed the fiscal treaty designed to put a line under the euro crisis on a grey and misty Brussels morning, the mood at the summit was low key and low energy (the UK and the Czech Republic the two non-signatories). Politicians and officials alike did their best to spin that the crisis was past. French President Nicolas Sarkozy at his press conference, insisted ‘ we are turning the page on the financial crisis’ and that Europe had shown how fast it can move, bringing the treaty in just three months after the idea was launched at the December summit 3 months before. But Sarkozy himself looked tired and pale, rather than his …

Last week, I debated how much more the Greek nation can take given the enormous internal and external pressures on families, society and the nation. When discussing this with my friend and colleague Pavlos Efthymiou, we realised that some important points were missing and have rewritten the article together (also published on ELIAMEP). Mainstream International Relations (IR) thinking (see Realism, Liberalism) holds that the national interest drives states to act the way they do on the international stage. This post-hoc rationalising to explain policy outcomes works successfully enough to be employed by the majority of policy-makers, academics, and analysts to inform their audiences. However, what they are often missing is how such an interest comes about and what it is …
Jean Claude Piris

Last week the Centre for International Studies held an excellent discussion panel (shortly to be made into a podcast) with Jean-Claude Piris (author and former Director General of the Legal Service of the Council Secretariat), discussing his new book, Towards a Two Speed Europe. Jean-Claude Piris, who has worked for many years in the highest echelons of European law-making and treaty formulation, is far more qualified than your blogger to evaluate the various implications of a formalisation of the currently observable divergence in paths of the European centre and its periphery. I shall not, therefore, attempt to evaluate his arguments from the point either of a lawyer or a European policymaker. I’m neither. Rather, I write merely as a citizen of …

At the end of the 19th Century, Lord Curzon, the then British Viceroy of India, described Iran and its Arab neighbours as “pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the domination of the world”. The geostrategic importance of the Middle East, with its immense oil wealth, has shaped the policies of colonial empires, secured the longevity of autocratic regimes and given rise to religious elites. The ‘game of chess’, as described by Lord Curzon, promises great riches and influence for the players involved, but has often come at a huge cost for the majority of the Arab people. Indeed, oil wealth, so narrowly shared between the region’s ruling minorities, has historically presented a barrier …

As the European Union lurches from crisis to crisis, the chances of getting a new EU treaty are on the rise. Such a new treaty might be the ‘Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union’, which is due to be signed in March by all EU members apart from the Czech Republic and the UK. Or, if the worst fears of the Eurozone countries are realised and Greece defaults, a new treaty will be necessary to clean up the ensuing mess. Although most attention tends to focus on the ins-and-outs of treaty negotiations, once a treaty has been signed it still has to be ratified by each country. And the ratification process has rarely gone …

Yesterday Geoffrey Gertz commented in this blog on German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s statement on elections in Greece.  Indeed solving this crisis will be tough, but perhaps international relations theories can offer some advice on what is needed to address current problems. Part of what is downplayed in recent analysis is the impact of the crisis on national emotions and pride. Realism and Liberal Institutionalism propose that national interest drives states to act the way they do. This type of post hoc rationalising to explain outcomes works successfully enough for academics, policy-makers and journalists; however, what they are missing is how such an interest comes about and what fuels it. Richard Ned Lebow of Dartmouth University published in 2010 ‘Why Nations Fight’. In …