World

Turkey Takes Off

The EU's perennial reject has seen impressive growth—but there are warning signs for the future.

Flickr/ognjenodobasic
What a difference ten years makes. In 2001, Greece adopted the euro as its national currency. Its borrowing costs, which plummeted in expectation of this momentous event, were almost as low as Germany’s. Its growth rate for the year climbed to 4.1 percent and inflation hovered around 4 percent—a sharp decline from the double digits of the ’80s and ’90s. It was a country on the way up. On the other hand, Turkey, its neighbor and geopolitical arch-rival, was mired in a major financial crisis. Its currency was collapsing, its banking system was broken and unemployment was skyrocketing. These days, it is the Greeks who are in an economic freefall, while Turkey is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world: In 2011, Turkish GDP jumped by 8.5 percent, almost besting its 9 percent expansion in 2010. In a country with a young workforce (the average age is 28), a large rural underclass, and poor infrastructure aching to be upgraded, the prospects for more banner years look good...

Vive la France!

Flickr/gpaumier
Yes, folks, it's another Tigger day. Last week, while I was talking about how straight people changed marriage so that same-sex couples now belong in it, the new French government announced that it will gender-neutralize the entrance requirements for marriage early next year, which will also grant same-sex couples full adoption rights. That would mean that twelve nations marry same-sex pairs, plus some states and provinces scattered hither and yon. In historical order, that would include The Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2003, in some provinces; 2005, nationally), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), and Denmark (2012). After France, I'm looking at Australia, where the debate is in full swing; the majority of Australians ( 62 percent ) say they favor marriage equality; the relevant Senate committee has recommended that Parliament pass an equal-marriage law; and a highly active national...

What’s the European Central Bank?

The Prospect takes a look at one of the key players in Europe's financial crisis.

(Flickr / Davide "Dodo" Oliva)
Weird terms like “yield spreads,” “troika,” and “Merkel” have been popping up in the news, often surrounded by acronyms like IMF, ESM, EFSF, and FROB. Our politicians aren't talking about it much, but you can bet your retirement they will once Wall Street underwriters start freaking out about it. Today, the Prospect fills you in on one of the most important acronym in the euro crisis: the ECB, or the European Central Bank. The European whatsit? In a nutshell, the ECB is the central bank of the Eurozone—the countries of the European Union that use the euro. Though it only technically became a crucial apparatus of the European Union in 2009, it has a large role in the history of European integration. For now, we'll just leave it at this: The ECB controls the monetary policy of Eurozone countries. It's also one of the newer venues in which France and Germany play chicken over who's the boss of Europe. More on that later. Monetary policy? So it’s like the Fed? Sort of. There are definite...

Romneyland on the Mediterranean

What does having a Bain-style CEO do to a country? Israel has run the experiment, and the results are ugly.

(Flickr/TheeErin)
If Mitt Romney visits Israel this summer, it's a safe guess that his tour will avoid demonstrations against the government's economic policies. When Mitt and Bibi dine together, the Israeli prime minister probably won't show clips of riot cops dragging away Daphni Leef, the woman who ignited the economic protests, as she tries to re-establish a tent encampment in downtown Tel Aviv. Meeting the media, Romney may mention his old friendship with Benjamin Netanyahu, which dates back to the time when the two of them, fresh from business school, worked at the Boston Consulting Group. Journalists will dutifully ask him and Netanyahu about Iran, ignoring the fact that Israel has an economy and that running it is Netanyahu's passion. This is a shame, because Israel can be seen as a laboratory where tests have been conducted in managing a country as if Bain Capital had bought it — and the lab results aren't pretty. To be fair, the Israeli government has followed free-market orthodoxy since the...

If the Tibetan Can't Go to the Homeland...

As some of you know, there is far more to the Tibetan diaspora than the Dalai Lama. More than 200,000 refugees are living, sometimes stateless, in other countries. Tenzin Dorjee, whom I've mentioned here before, is the director of Students for a Free Tibet and one of the next generation of Tibetan leaders in exile. Last week, he wrote at The Huffington Post about an incredibly moving art project, conceived after activist and artist Tenzing Rigdol's father died in exile longing to see his homeland one more time: Rigdol was deeply affected by his father's untimely death, and devastated by his own helplessness in fulfilling his father's final wish. He could not stop agonizing over the idea that hundreds of other Tibetan exiles were going through the same denial of dignity, passing their final years in foreign lands.... Rigdol ... smuggled 20,000 kilograms of native Tibetan soil into India and laid it on a platform six feet high, creating an installation unprecedented in art history. For...

What’s So Radical about Same-Sex Marriage?

(Flickr / City of West Hollywood)
Two days ago I wrote about David Blankenhorn, longtime “traditional” marriage proponent who reluctantly announced he will no longer oppose same-sex couples’ freedom to marry. I examined his reasoning, because I believe it’s important to understand the logic of those with whom we disagree. And I took issue with Richard Kim’s response at The Nation , which I took to represent the radical/progressive wing of the LGBT movement, which has long groaned at the focus on marriage equality. I got some heated critiques about that post. So yesterday I dug up my longtime agreement with Blankenhorn that allowing same-sex couples into the institution transforms its meaning, furthering the institution’s philosphical and legal shift toward symbolizing gender equality and the separation of sex and babies. My goal yesterday: explain how progressive this shift actually is. But today I’m going to take issue with myself—hey, I’m just talented that way—and argue that there’s a way that Kim, Lisa Duggan,...

Can European Leaders Go Big?

With Spain, Italy, and Cyprus reeling, the stakes are high for the Brussels summit—but Germany stands in the way of broad reform.

(AP Photo/Philippos Christou)
(AP Photo/Philippos Christou) A woman passes by a branch of Bank of Cyprus in central Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, June 28, 2012. Cyprus became the fifth eurozone country this week to ask for a bailout from its partners in the currency union in order to prop up its Greece-exposed banks and flagging economy. Officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will begin assessing next week how much bailout money Cyprus will need. The European Summit today and tomorrow in Brussels is the latest in a series of make-or-break moments for the European project. On many occasions since May 2010, when Greece was first cut off from market access, European leaders have been called upon to make a bold leap forward in the policy integration of the Eurozone—the only way to convince investors of the iron irrevocability of the common currency. Under constant pressure from the ongoing crisis, they have often seemed to be making the big decisions to...

The Army's Bizarre Cover-Up

(AP Photo/ U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte)
Lieutenant General William Caldwell, a rising star in the Army who formerly oversaw the training of Afghan security forces, was recently accused of impeding a 2010 investigation of corruption in the Afghan military medical corps to avoid affecting the outcome of congressional elections, as reported by Danger Room . Caldwell, who now commands the U.S. Army North based in Texas, was supposedly worried that a revelation of mismanagement and neglect would hurt Democrats’ electoral chances, damaging the close rapport he enjoyed with Obama. “He calls me Bill,” Caldwell is said to have told his officers. As Danger Room notes, his fears weren’t without basis; after all, General Stanley McChrystal was relieved of his command for immature comments just a few months prior. Caldwell’s relationship with the President Obama may be about to take a turn for the worse. But don’t count on the president taking much heat from the voters. To begin, Americans don’t care much for foreign policy; in 2010,...

The Simmering Sinai

Despite border clashes, Israel must keep itself out of Egypt's roiling politics.

(AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
The polls had closed a few hours earlier in Cairo, after two days of voting for a president who may or may not have any power. The Muslim Brotherhood was preparing to claim victory. Meanwhile, in the desert to the west, three gunmen crossed the border between Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Israel, attacked an Israeli crew building a border fence, and killed a worker, an Arab Israeli named Saeed Fashafshe. The human mind likes to make connections, so it's easy to draw a thick black line of cause-and-effect between these events: One could conclude that the revolution alone is at fault for the Egyptian regime losing control of the Sinai desert—or worse, that the ascendant Islamicists are encouraging the border violence. Those reflexive interpretations ran through Israeli media reports this week. The reality is more complicated. Nonetheless, the fact that the border and Egyptian politics are heating up at the same time demands attention. For Egypt's wrestling political forces, the lesson...

A Paralyzed G-20

(AP Photo/Andres Leighton) France's President François Hollande smiles at the end of a news conference at the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. All the bland platitudes coming out of the Group of 20 Meeting in Mexico can’t disguise the absence of progress on the European crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is totally dug in on the proposition that Greece, Portugal, and Spain need to stick to the austerity medicine that will only deepen the collapse and embolden more speculative attacks on government bonds. President Obama has just about no leverage in this situation. On Monday, the European Commission President, Jose Barroso, a conservative former Portuguese prime minister, and close Merkel ally, broke his diplomatic cool and declared that he was in no mood to be lectured by Americans on what Europe needed to do to restore growth. This crisis was not originated in Europe," Barroso said. "This crisis was originated in North America. Many in our financial...

Greece Gives the Euro One Last Shot

(AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)
(AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis) A supporter of Radical Left party (SYRIZA) sits in front of a graffiti painted wall of Athens' university, where party's main election center is located on Sunday, June 17, 2012. The graffiti on the wall reads "Do not live like slaves , Revolution Now ". Alexis Tsipras and his party shot to prominence in the May 6 vote, where he came a surprise second and quadrupled his support since the 2009 election. Syriza party has vowed to rip up Greece's bailout agreements and repeal the austerity measures, which have included deep spending cuts on everything from health care to education and infrastructure, as well as tax hikes and reductions of salaries and pensions. It was a night of high drama, after a tense pre-election period that often descended into violence. By the end of it, Greek voters had narrowly given the pro-bailout forces one last stab at salvaging the adjustment program with Greece’s creditors and avoiding a disastrous exit from the euro. This has...

Will Greece Drop the Mic?

The country's elections on Sunday amount to a referendum on austerity—and could lead to an exit from the euro.

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) The head of Greece's radical left-wing Syriza party Alexis Tsipras waves to his supporters during a rally at Omonia square in Athens, Thursday, June 14, 2012. Greece faces crucial national elections on Sunday, that could ultimately determine whether the debt-saddled, recession bound country remains in the eurozone. “Not a step back: End the troika and the memorandum.” Thus read one of the placards hung up on a lamp post close to Omonoia Square in downtown Athens, where Syriza—the surging left-wing party led by Alexis Tsipras—held its major pre-election rally last night. The mood in the densely populated square was equally defiant. “It’s not Syriza’s policies that will lead us out of the euro. It’s the policies of the memorandum [signed between Greece and the International Monetary Fund]. They lead to exit with mathematical certainty,” says Panagiotis, a retired banker and self-described “troubled Greek,” referring to the demanding terms of Greece’s bailouts...

Europe’s Tragic Farce

(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza) Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy leaves after a control session at the Spanish Parliament, in Madrid, Wednesday, June 13, 2012. The interest rate Spain would have to pay to raise money on the world's bond markets continued to rise Wednesday amid worries that a planned bank bailout might not be enough to save the country from needing an overall financial rescue. Europe’s top politicians, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seem determined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Last weekend, the financial crisis seemed to be contained for the moment when the Germans and the European Central Bank agreed to commit 100 billion euros through the European Union’s (E.U.) rescue funds to recapitalize Spain’s faltering banking system. The Spanish government bargained hard, and won an agreement that the bailout would not be tied to new austerity demands of the sort imposed on Greece and Portugal. But as more details emerge, it’s clear that the...

Structurally Flawed

A face-off over the legality of Israeli settlement has left Benjamin Netanyahu weaker.

(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Before July 1, five apartment buildings in a West Bank settlement will be cut from their foundations and dragged over the hilly terrain to a new location elsewhere in the community. That's Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan, anyway. From an engineering perspective, the idea is "delusional," as one expert put it. That's an understated evaluation. If the three-story buildings are moved and survive, it's reasonable to assume that they'll be riddled with visible and unseen fissures—just like Netanyahu's Likud party, his ruling coalition, and the jerrybuilt legal underpinnings of Israeli settlement in occupied territory. The interesting question is which of these flawed structures will collapse first. The idea of moving the buildings, home to 30 families, is part of Netanyahu's response to the worst political crisis he has faced in his current term. A month ago, the country's Supreme Court issued an absolutely final, don't-bother-us-again, we're-fed-up-with-you order to...

Germany's Tightrope Act

BERLIN —Germany, uniquely, is prospering while the rest of Europe sinks deeper into recession. And the recession is substantially the result of the very austerity that Chancellor Angela Merkel is imposing on the other member nations of the European Union. Why is Germany spared? One good reason and two bad ones. The good reason is that Germany promotes manufacturing, with sensible training and technology policies. Its industries have partnerships with effective unions. So Germany’s huge export surplus means that it can have tight budget policies at home and still have plenty of good jobs. A bad reason is that the same euro that is overvalued for Greece is undervalued for Germany. So Germany benefits from a tacit subsidy—an artificially cheap currency, which makes its exports cheap. The second bad reason is that as capital flees from weak economies, it comes to Germany, leaving Germans with artificially low interest rates—another subsidy at the expense of its neighbors. But even Germany...

Pages