That won´t tidy away the GMO issue

Simply no good, the new EU rules on genetically modified organisms. I can see why the EU commission felt the need to propose new rules, seen as the current ones are not working at all. Over and over, refused proposals to approve a new GMO crop have boomeranged back to the commission which more or less has the obligation to see these products through the system (soon as they have been deemed not-hazardous by the EU food agency). What to do? Well, something, obviously. The EU commission was prodded into action, being sued for being too passive by the American producer DuPont Pioneer. Unfortunately, the new rules are no better. It may be all right for the eight or so EU countries that want to grow GMO crops on their land (the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Portuga...

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All in the same boat, he said

It was sort of funny to watch the heads of European states pushing and shoving to get a prime spot in Sunday´s march in Paris. Nicholas Sarkozy, in his own eyes the next French president, elbowed his way to the top of the train but was firmly ordered to stand back. Sarkozy came out talking tough after the massacre on Thursday with a “France is now at war” which showed how way off the mark he is with his people. British Prime Minister Cameron then got off the bus and confidently placed himself to the left to the man of the day, President Hollande. But Jean-Claude Juncker sneakily nudged himself in between the two and with his back turned to Mr Cameron stood his ground, pretending not to notice Mr Cameron at all. Mr Juncker only lasted a short while in this brilliant position for a pho...

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Putin's House of Cards

This is the house that Putin built. A house of cards. Moscow reportedly calculated that it can afford the launch of the Eurasian Union, as well as the annexation of Crimea and the Western sanctions it entails. But in recent days - amid the attempted suicide of the Russian rouble, due to Western sanctions and the slump in oil prices - the once-affluent Mother Russia is beginning to look like a wicked stepmother. Russian politics is contractual. In return for their loyalty, the Kremlin’s supporters want economic benefits. Russians, as well as Belarusians and Kazakhs, have traded their rights and freedoms for stability and well-being. But days before the launch of the Eurasian Union, it’s obvious the project will be still-born on 1 January 2015 because Moscow can no longer afford it. Wh...

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Why are weapons-makers excited by TTIP?

Could the world's largest weapons company soon be managing part of our medical systems? That absurd and nasty idea is being actively discussed. The National Health Service in England recently held a meeting for firms interested in providing support services to doctors. Among those firms were Lockheed Martin, the same company that has supplied interrogators to the US torture chambers of Guantanamo Bay, fighter jets to Israel and cluster bombs dropped by US forces in Afghanistan. Not content with arming a superpower, Lockheed has been trying to muscle into civilian markets. For a number of years, it has been involved in running parts of the postal services in the US and Sweden. The arms industry is hoping that the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will p...

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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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