Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Nuevo Punto Bajo

August 2, 2007

What do you get when you cross a Cold War Bogeyman with an over-hyped luxury brand? CNN Article here.



Great picture, but I still feel bad for poor Gorby. He looks like he’s thinking something along the lines of, “What the hell happened to my career?”

We wonder too, Gorby, we wonder too.



June 22, 2007

So much for a free-market, pro-business president who’s out to shake up the status-quo. I can’t wait to sit through a French transportation strike, preferably while trying to get to CDG to catch a flight.

I like my waffles with blueberries. How do you like yours?



The EU summit

Jun 22nd 2007 | BRUSSELS

Taking aim at the free market

HAS Nicolas Sarkozy really dealt a nasty blow to the free-market foundations of Europe? The question has caused much confusion at a European Union summit unfolding in Brussels. It emerged on Thursday June 21st that France’s new president had succeeded in removing “free and undistorted competition” from a list of the EU’s core objectives at the top of a new “reform treaty” being thrashed to replace the defunct constitution.

Mr Sarkozy also managed to have language added to the list of core objectives stating that the union should offer “protection” to its citizens in its dealings with the outside world. Legal officials in Brussels, as well as in various national capitals, spent a sleepless night mulling the implications of the changes. But ask lawyers an intensely political question (and deprive them of sleep) and their answers are usually less than clearcut.

The European Commission is concerned that Mr Sarkozy’s populist move may have real legal implications. Its worst fear is that European judges will read the change as meaning the balance between free trade and the right of the state to protect citizens has shifted, in the direction of meddling. At the very least, officials concluded, a legal patch was needed to ensure the commission still retained oversight of all mergers that affect the EU market. The Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, finally sealed a deal on Friday lunchtime with Mr Sarkozy, to add a binding legal protocol to the new treaty, stating that under the single market the Commission does, indeed, have the power to police free and undistorted competition. Such powers are hefty, as as General Electric and Microsoft, among others, can testify, after bruising encounters with merger and competition officials.

Mr Sarkozy insisted in a private meeting with the British prime minister, Tony Blair, that removing the commitment to undistorted competition is a purely political move, that does not change the legal base of the EU one jot. The French president explained that he was merely heeding the message sent by the 55% of French voters who rejected the EU constitution in a referendum two years ago. Mr Blair needs French support if he is to secure a handful of domestically important opt outs and concessions at the summit. He accepts this is indeed a harmless move.

Officials from some of Europe’s governments with more of a mind for free trade, such as Sweden, say they are not happy with the change but are not intending to fight it. Everyone is choosing to accept Mr Sarkozy’s explanation that for French voters competition is not an “objective” or an end in itself, but merely a means of trying to achieve prosperity and “social cohesion”. Such is EU horsetrading.

And what of Mr Sarkozy himself? In an oddly informal meeting with reporters the French president was asked if securing the change was one of his most important aims at this summit. “It’s not the most important thing to me,” he said, casually. A spokesman for Mr Sarkozy noted, later, that references to competition are “scattered all over the treaty”, so it will still be an EU policy. Why worry, was the message. This is just keeping a promise made to the French people during the recent presidential and parliamentary election campaigns.

Perhaps so, but it raises an awkward question about the French leader. During his campaign to become president he presented rival public faces: the pro-business reformer alongside the populist defender of French national interests. The elections won, it is still not clear which of these is the true Mr Sarkozy.