Do sanctions on Russia work?

Sanctions have become a key policy tool in the EU’s response to Russian actions in Ukraine. This has generated a debate inside Europe, first and foremost, on whether such measures work, and on whether or not they should continue, be upgraded or scrapped altogether. The debate revolves around two important questions: do sanctions have an economic impact on Moscow – in other words, do they hurt? And are they effective enough to change Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine? The restrictive measures and their scope The current sanctions placed on Russia and on certain local actors from Crimea and Ukraine’s Donbas region were initiated by the EU and the US, and are supported by a host of countries including Albania, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Sw...

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Russia-Ukraine and the need for Unity of Purpose

2014 will be remembered as the year that the established European security system -- including the inviolability of borders -- was violated by the Russian Federation. This situation did not come about by chance. It was done purposely and with clear aims. Furthermore, in no way can we judge the ongoing confrontation between the West and Russia to be a temporary eruption because it is much more than that. It represents a fundamental change of climate that seems set to last for quite some time. The credibility of the West depends on its response which should be strong, resolute and most of all united because Russian President, Vladimir Putin will not waver in his convictions. Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and actions in Eastern Ukraine, have turned the security we have taken for gr...

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Keep looking, Mr Cameron

I understand that the British Prime Minister David Cameron has dropped Norway, as a model of the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Wise choice, Prime Minister. The Norwegian model was never a good idea. The Norwegian deal with the EU is basically that Norway gets in on the single market in return for paying a fee and accepting what the EU decides for the single market. The Norwegian parliament adopts something like 1 to 2 legal EU acts daily. No adapting, no remodeling, just stamping the rules straight as they come from Brussels. Not so appealing, is it? And there´s still the fee to pay - around 5 bn Nkr yearly, not very far from the amount that EU member Finland pays. Your people, Mr. Cameron, have sometime mentioned the Swiss way as a possible model for the U...

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Is Islamism in decline?

On December 6 Thomas L. Friedman published a column with the title How ISIS drives Muslims from Islam in the New York Times. I totally agree with this. It’s only strange that the New York Times refused my piece with exactly the same message two weeks ago. Maybe Friedman was inspired by my (of course much less well written) piece?  Anyway, you cannot read it in the New York Times, but here:   Poised opposite Cairo university stands a grand statue of a traditional peasant woman (often used to depict Egypt) lifting her veil while standing next to a couchant Sphinx. The statue known as "Egypt's Renaissance" was created in the 1920ies by the famous Egyptian sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar and symbolizes hopes of modernity after a long history of colonization. Today ninety years later...

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The EU's new narrative might be a rather old one

It’s become a sort of Holy Grail for the EU’s communications staff: to invent a new narrative for European integration. The EU has more or less secured its original goal (peace) and is now struggling to explain its continued purpose. What it needs, apparently, is a mobilising new story. Well perhaps the PR people are missing an obvious solution. Here it is. A political allegory for our times. Our story starts with a plucky young woman being swept up from her small-town life in the real world and plopped down in a fairy-tale land. At first bewildered, she soon builds up her courage and sets about exploring the place. And what a place it is - full of strange sights and sounds. Etc. You get the picture. But do you also get the symbolism? This fairy-tale country represents the “transform...

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I don´t know about this Tusk guy

I really don´t know about this Tusk guy. Will he be able to control the inflated egos and calm the hot tempers of heads and states in the European Council even half as cleverly as did the “grey and civil servanty” Van Rompuy? I should admit to a fault in my character - I´m quick to judge people. But I´ve learnt over the years that I have to give people in power their first hundred days before coming down on them – they sometimes turn out quite differently than I expected them to. And I don´t know much about Mr. Tusk except that he´s fought tooth and nail for keeping his coal mines going (never mind the climate). I know he comes from a country where a compromise is no good unless it´s preceded by a good, hard fight. I will admit that my prejudices may be hardened by the fact that i...

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Ukraine In-Depth: from a Victim Nation to a Winner Nation

Today Ukrainians commemorate the 1st anniversary of Euromaidan. It was exactly one year ago when the first people came to Maidan square in Kyiv to protest against Yanukovych's refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. Tomorrow is another remembrance day. The fourth Saturday of November is the Remembrance Day of Holodomor (artificial famine of the Ukrainian peasants in the Soviet times) and Political Repressions Victims. Unfortunately, this death toll still claims its prey today. The political repressions victims of the Euromaidan formed the «Heaven Hundred» (in reality, they were more than a hundred). People are starving to death now in the occupied regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the East. As a nation Ukrainians are very young. According to Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytskyi, its...

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Free movement and Europe's balance of power

The path of European integration is paved with deceptively bland statements. Here are two such. The first is from a report by euro-pragmatic British MPs on the options for handling immigration from the EU’s East. British ministers, it reports, “have warned could increase the government’s liabilities to UK citizens retiring abroad”. The second is from a think-tank report written by a French analyst: “The economic crisis has pushed Eurozone Member States to significantly enhance the coordination of their economic policies,” it states. “From this perspective, the situation in Member States' labour markets, including the question of labour migration, will increasingly be relevant to the EU level.” Still awake? Good. Because those two statements might just matter. Both have implications...

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The UK Patent box – will it come back in through the back door, accompanied by Germany?

Cross-posted from the Tax Justice Network, with permission: We've just written a blog about the UK's nasty, disingenuous and hypocritical patent box regime, and how recent moves announced in a joint UK-agreement to reform it have successfully been spun as a "watering down" of the rules under pressure from Germany. The blog points out that the joint UK-German announcement, which is quite short, is cryptic. It explicitly states that "IP regimes" (which is what patent boxes are) are out: well and good. But, as we asked, will some sort of equivalent to or variant of the Patent Box be brought back in through the back door? Sources have alerted us that there seems to be some skulduggery involved here. Take a look at this section of the joint statement. If you're not a corporate tax s...

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Democracy By Auditing

I have moments when democracy doesn´t seem such a bright idea. And who doesn´t?, when you see the politicians this system brings us. If only we could find one political party that is daring enough to base their political work on facts instead of myths. (and I´m thinking specifically of you Mr Cameron, and you Mrs Merkel, and you Mr Rutte sprouting your rubbish about EU migrants being benefit scroungers when all evidence points at the exact opposite and the Court has had to come out and enlighten you on what should have been a well-known fact for anyone in your position, that EU rules do not open for scrounging.) And then I go and find the answer to my prayers in the Court of Auditors Report for 2013! This is a document that all of us journalists decided was dead boring already after...

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