Posts tagged ‘Europe’

When Europe sneezes, will the world catch pneumonia?

Since the eurozone crisis first erupted three years ago it has largely been seen as Europe’s problem. It has now become a global emergency.

This crisis is “scaring the world” says President Obama, whose Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Europe twice in a week to meet European finance ministers and who has demanded speedy action in the strongest language, warning of “cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk”. Such US criticism looks a bit rich in the wake of the great American budget row, but it seems that when Europe sneezes, the whole world may catch pneumonia.

The G-20 has been mobilised to put co-ordinated pressure on the Europeans, while the International Monetary Fund is becoming a central player in a desperate campaign to avert global recession. The question is whether the IMF has the firepower to meet the challenge. In the few short weeks leading up to the G-20 summit in Cannes on November 3-4 an action programme must be devised to instil new confidence into the global economy and restore faith in the markets. Six weeks to save the euro, says UK finance minister George Osborne. Six weeks to save the world economy, some say.

A whole raft of ideas is in the air. One is to gear up the €440 billion EFSF by borrowing against it, so creating a fund of €2 trillion; another is a 50 per cent haircut of Greek bonds, allowing default by any other name but keeping Greece in the eurozone, with new funds provided to the banks by the ECB to strengthen their balance sheets. These are all variations on the piecemeal measures already adopted, too little and too late, by Europe.

Angela Merkel stresses the need for a step-by-step approach – or perhaps day-by-day would be more appropriate. She doesn’t want to frighten the horses in advance of Thursday’s meeting of the Bundestag, which will vote on the European Financial Stability Facility, so she does not welcome talk of Greek default or the creation of eurobonds.

The markets must not be allowed to dictate policy, she says, and she reassured Greek prime minister Papandreou of Germany’s support on this week’s visit to Berlin. The crisis was a debt crisis, she said, not a euro crisis.

It does look as if the German Chancellor will win the vote on Thursday with opposition support, but whether she can take her coalition partners with her is another matter. There is particular concern among FDP members over the possible expansion of the stability fund.

Ratification of the fund has other hurdles to overcome, but the Slovenian parliament has now given its approval. There follows Wednesday’s vote in the Finnish parliament, which has been negotiating  “collateral” with Greece as a condition of supporting the bail-out plan, and Slovakia, voting on October 11, which hates the idea of bailing out a wealthier neighbour, but is nonetheless likely to give its approval. Tuesday’s approval by the Greek parliament of a new property tax should underpin support in these countries.

Approval of the EFSF will no doubt help to soothe the markets in the short term, but it now seems clear that global support will be needed to restore long-term stability to global markets and head off recession. This will inevitably involve China, India and other developing economies,  marking a further shift of economic power across the world.

Michael Berendt

September 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm Leave a comment

Libya highlights Europe’s defence weakness

The ability of we Europeans to provide for our own defence has been increasingly in doubt since the end of the cold war. I well remember George Robertson, when he was NATO Secretary General, contrasting the size of Europe’s military forces, running into millions, with the inability of European allies to provide just a few thousand troops for NATO operations.

The Libyan campaign has forced the issue into sharp focus. Last Friday’s speech by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Security and Defence Agenda meeting in Brussels spelled out the harsh realities of a changing world and warned Europe of the consequences of neglecting its military capabilities.

Gates describes the present situation as “unacceptable” and cites the fact that 11 weeks after the Libyan operation began – under NATO auspices – some European partners have run out of firepower and have had to ask the Americans for new bombs and rockets. According to him the Italian airbase for operations over Libya can only handle half the sorties for which it is equipped owing to lack of equipment.  It’s symptomatic of a wider failure.

Two major assumptions seem to lie behind Europe’s lack of defence capabilities: the first is the belief that the world has become more benign, and that in this kinder world we need no longer worry about our capacity for military action. The second is that if action is needed then we can always get the Americans to do the dirty work.

Each of the two assumptions is surely wrong. Of course we face different threats from those we faced in the cold war years, many of them unpredictable, but there are always dangers round the corner. For instance we tend to assume that the Arab spring is a surge towards democracy equivalent to Europe’s velvet revolutions. That is indeed an outcome devoutly to be wished, but it is by no means guaranteed. Every Arab country has its own version of the revolution. Just look at the mayhem in Syria, which could have major repercussions across the region.

The US Secretary of State touched on the changing politics which undermine the second assumption. The generation of US politicians whose experience was forged during the cold war has now moved on, to be replaced by political leaders with quite different priorities, impatient of European demands for American involvement and wholly preoccupied by a ballooning budget deficit.  It was striking how indignant some EU leaders were that President Obama refused to take the lead role in Libya. But as Obama has reasonably said, Libya is Europe’s problem.

It is the very unpredictability of international events which make it so difficult for governments to plan defence spending – and to justify it to voters, but as Robert Gates says, it is barmy to spend money on sophisticated fighter aircraft and not provide the armaments they need for active combat, or the electronic capabilities and intelligence resources to direct their operations.

A collapse of trust between allies could even threaten the demise of NATO. As the American global commitment diminishes so Europe has got to do more in both diplomatic and practical ways. The common European Security and Defence Policy should provide the framework and the common will to improve capabilities, but there’s little sign of it doing so. It should also be working much more closely with NATO. But who will provide the political leadership? Regrettably there is not much sign that either Cathy Ashton or national leaders are capable of that.


June 13, 2011 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

eHealth – A revolution for Europe’s health systems?

A surgical team from Wilford Hall Medical Cent...
Image via Wikipedia

The topic of ehealth is attracting huge interest in Brussels amongst policymakers, stakeholders, think tanks…. Basically our Brussels’ bubble.

First of all – what is it? A good definition seems “the application of information and communications technologies in the health sector”.

Secondly, will it transform European healthcare system in the long term? In a two pager, posted on our FH website, we have tried to outline its benefits and the barriers that have still to be overcome if we want ehealth to flourish.



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March 10, 2010 at 8:13 pm 4 comments

Public affairs in a global world – a new internet resource

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...
Image via Wikipedia

Over recent years, our work here at FH Brussels has become increasingly international in nature. The internet has of course contributed to this. In this globally connected age, the issues and policies that our clients care about often transcend both national and regional borders.

Internally, this has meant that our Global Public Affairs Practice has seen annual get togethers in the last three years in our global public affairs hubs of Beijing, Washington and Brussels to discuss how global public affairs plays out at a local level. Happily, we now have a solid global network in public affairs supported by strong local capabilities in key cities across Europe, North America and Asia.

As such, it is great to see an new initiative with a truly global public affairs perspective in the shape of The website, created by Ben Atfield of London based public affairs recruitment specialists Ellwood and Atfield, brings together news and views from the global public affairs community. Its editorial board has members of the public affairs community from three regions of the world, including Andrew Johnson of Euro RSCG and Tom Spencer of the European Centre for Public Affairs from Brussels.

We’re looking to seeing this platform develop as the public affairs sector (both inhouse and agency) increasingly professionalises across the globe. One small suggestion for the platform’s own development; RSS feeds of the three news columns would be useful for all of us using our own aggregation tools.


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April 3, 2009 at 4:48 pm 1 comment

We twitter on EBS2009, do you dare to care?

A year ago we posted on the European Business Summit 2008 and their use of video and blogs for their event. Well they are back again for another go – blog here and website here – and so are we.

This time we have decided not to comment on their blog, which seems to have more content that last time around, but instead to take up the challenge offered by New Europe this morning and to twitter from Brussels’ premium annual business/policy event. I know, you are about to all enter into existential angst about whether Twitter is a passing fad or actually useful for something. Debate away. However, it’s late and we want to go home. We know it’s working for some of our clients and that’s enough for now.

So if you are really interested (and herein lies the rub of Twitter) in what we think of events at EBS 2009, you can follow us at late next week, hashtag ebs2009 will be used throughout.


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March 18, 2009 at 8:20 pm Leave a comment

Digitization of cultural content – Commission enters into unknown territory

In ancient times, the library of Alexandria was said to contain up to 70% of all human knowledge. Aiming to reap the benefits of the digital age, the European Commission wants to do even better than that.
It was against this background that the Commission launched the EU’s digital libraries initiative in 2006 aiming to make Europe’s cultural resources and scientific records digitally accessible to all. This project saw daylight on 20 November 2008 with the launch of the website.  During the official launch ceremony in Brussels Commissioner Viviane Reding stated that Europeana offers a journey through time, across borders, and into new ideas of what our culture is. However, Europeana seems also have offered the European Commission a lesson in web-page management.

One the first day of its launch, with more than 10 million hits an hour, Europeana simply crashed and the European Commission had to shut it down. The Commission is now working on to reopen the site in a more solid version hoping to reactivate it before the end of 2008.

Despite these intial problems the Digital team at Fleishman Hillard would of course like congratulate the Commission for this initative. The idea of combining multimedia library, museum and archive into one digital website combined with Web 2.0 features is just fantastic and we are eager to see how it will work in practice. It remains to be seen if the Commission will achieve its objective to digitalize and make available ten million objectives on the website by 2010.


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November 21, 2008 at 7:59 pm 3 comments

Sarko in the Celtic Tiger’s cage

Nicolas Sarkozy, a watermark was present that ...Image via Wikipedia

The second in our now regular series of blog posts from our lovely French colleagues over in Paris…grrrrrrr.

After the announcement of the “No” on Friday, June 13, Dublin erupted in jubilation. But the next day, Ireland found itself in a situation comparable to the habitually sober citizen who has woken up with a raging hangover after having gone on an almighty pub crawl. A weekend national newspaper referred to an “Oh sh*t, what have we done?” vibe floating around. Opinion polls indicated that paradoxically most Irish support the EU, even if they voted no and found that almost 40 per cent of those who rejected the EU Treaty did so because they did not understand or were not “familiar” with it.

24 hours after the Bastille Day celebrations of July 14, the president of the European council, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy sparked a general outcry in Dublin by bluntly revealing an open secret… “The Irish will have to vote again”, he said to members of his party. And the media hype began. Immediately, the Irish started fulminating about such arrogance on the part of the Gallic elite. Suddenly, Sarkozy’s four-hour visit in Dublin on July 21 became a much more controversial topic for the Irish than the last Gaelic football game. It became THE story. Actually, to say the least, the reception of the French President could have been warmer…

On his way back to Paris, “the French gaffer” as he is called in the daily French newspaper Le Monde, denied having asked for a second Irish vote. In fact, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy is all too aware that there is no miracle solution to this institutional crisis at the present time. Irish events could be seen as a perfect introduction to a lecture on “sarkocism”. Lesson 1: raising the roof once more while pretending you are not. It is too early to say if this strategy is actually adapted to the present Irish versus European context. The forthcoming months will determine whether the answer is positive or not…

Zemanta Pixie

July 25, 2008 at 1:24 pm Leave a comment

The Sarko show: let the curtain rise!

France takes on the EU presidencyImage by looking4poetry via Flickr

In what we hope will be a series of regular reflections from our  colleagues at FH Paris on Bld Haussman during the current EU French Presidency, a mail arrives with this guest contribution from Clemence Choutet and Quentin Vivant. Here are their thoughts as the Sarko Show gets well into the first act…

President Nicolas Sarkozy has inherited a Union in disarray but he has grand ambitions at the helm of Europe. He intends to deploy all of his talents and diplomatic skills to pull off the job. In short, he has prepared grand plans for his EU presidency, which began on July 1st, to show that France is back in Europe.

Fastuous ceremonies and foreign guests

The inauguration of a flamboyant presidency was symbolized on June 30, 2008 by the Eiffel Tower lit a dazzling blue with gold stars, representing the EU flag. The festivities include “Europe Bastille Day Balls” and will continue throughout France’s six-month turn in the EU chair. With a budget of €190 million, France aims to dazzle the world’s eyes with stylish ceremonies and the classiest souvenirs, scarves, pens, small bags and other paraphernalia, ever to have been given away at EU summits. Beyond the pomp and style of the opening ceremonies, Mr. Sarkozy is to pursue an ambitious agenda of politico-cultural events centered on immigration, climate change, environment, agriculture, defense and energy. No fewer than ten international summits will take place over the following six months.

Review of the troops

The first and most spectacular event will be the Paris summit on July 13 for about 50 leaders from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East programmed to launch Mr Sarkozy’s pet project for a “Mediterranean Union”. Leaders of all 27 EU members, plus 17 Mediterranean countries, are invited to a jamboree on the eve of Bastille Day to launch a new Union for the Mediterranean. Soldiers from Mediterranean countries that include Libya, Syria and Israel are invited by President Sarkozy to march in a “Euro-Mediterranean Bastille Day” military parade with European troops. The parade is expected to be the biggest yet, and will be followed by a fireworks display and a concert. Sarkozy wishes to turn the Mediterranean summit into an occasion to demonstrate that one of his great ideas has started to materialize.

Sarkozy’s fast-track gambit may pay dividends

Nicolas Sarkozy plans to launch the EU construction projects more or less simultaneously instead of successively, a tactic which he has already employed for the instigation of French social and economic reform. His fast moves dazzle both friends and foe alike. He makes a practice of moving too quickly for his political adversaries. And whatever Sarkozy does, he does it with style. Despite the sarcastic comments made by his detractors, one cannot help wondering whether Sarkozy’s dynamic approach may finally pay off, providing the opportunity to break down the EU’s institutional paralysis and overcome the traditional obstacles which have marred its construction.

To be continued…

Zemanta Pixie

July 13, 2008 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

Internet has 8 times the influence of newspapers on Europeans

Our digital practice in Europe has recently launched the results of a piece of research conducted in France, Germany and the UK with consumers on the impact of the use of the internet on their decisions. The Digital Influence Index that results uses both the time spent on different media and the influence consumers say it has on the decisions they take to come to an index that we shall be using to track the growing power of the internet over time. The study was undertaken by FH with Harris Interactive.

Unsurprisingly, the study comes to the conclusion that the internet trumps both print and broadcast media in terms of the influence it has on consumer decisions. Clearly, there is a lot more to the study than that, so click here for the social media release with lots of further info, pics, speeches, exec. summaries and media coverage.

While the study focuses for the most part on decisions consumers take, rather than political decisions, it does address the latter. Interestingly our bods come to the conclusion that political decisions by citizens are less likely to be influenced by the internet than other consumer related decisions.

Having said this, it is clear, at least for me, that the study underlines the potential impact of digital on public affairs and politics.

1. The influence of the internet scores highly (61%) in terms of citizen behaviour of campaigning on an issue. This compares favourably to campaiging for a political party (45%) and voting in an election and way above voting in an election (18%). Speculating wildly, one might argue that this confirms the issue driven nature of the internet rather than the party political. This underlines the fact that on our issues, Brussels public affairs people might find rich pickings in finding and mobilising people around issues online. It should be our natural hunting ground for third party advocates. (see p. 11 executive summary)

2. Political parties/candidates need to be on the net. While the influence of the net on votes in elections may be lower than on other forms of political activity (see point 1. above), in terms of influence different kinds of sites have content from “sponsored sites” (i.e. party/candidates) scores highest of all 61% and non-sponsored sites score second highest 42%. (see p.12 executive summary). This suggests that the politically interested are going online to get their information and that more candidates/parties should invest online to get their message out to their core support – more work for Jon perhaps?

We hope to have some more comments from the people behind the research on here soon, in the meantime your views on the findings are most welcome.

Zemanta Pixie

June 30, 2008 at 11:39 am 2 comments

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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at

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