Atlantic Update 2/1/11


European leaders react to the Egypt crisis, and the Irish Prime Minister dissolves the government to set an election date.

Irish parliament being dissolved months after bail-out (BBC Europe)

The Irish Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, has announced that parliament is being dissolved, to allow for the first election since the bail-out. Mr Cowen, who is not standing for re-election, agreed to the early vote after a series of political setbacks including a vote of confidence. He is expected to announce the election date formally after seeing Irish President Mary McAleese later on Tuesday.The Minister for the Environment, Eamon O Cuiv, said earlier that 25 February was the most likely date for the general election.
The Irish Republic was forced to accept an 85bn euro ($113bn; £72bn) bail-out, with an interest rate of 5.8%, from the EU and IMF in November last year. Once known as the Celtic Tiger for its strong economic growth, the Republic had ridden high on a property bubble. But when property prices crashed, the economy slumped and several banks were left needing huge state hand-outs.

Turkey tells Mubarak to listen to the people (Reuters)

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should heed his people’s desire for change, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday, piling pressure on Mubarak to end his 30-year rule in the face of mass protests. As hundreds of thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo, Erdogan stopped short of explicitly calling for Mubarak’s resignation but urged the Egyptian leader to ponder his legacy.

Ankara, a close U.S. ally, has been watching the unrest rocking Egypt and Tunisia with concern about instability harming neighboring countries. Underlying the importance the United States places on Turkey in the volatile region, Ankara has been in close contact with Washington over Egypt, which caught the United States off guard and left it facing a struggle to balance strategic interests.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Erdogan over the weekend to discuss the turmoil in the region and stressed the importance of Erdogan as an elected leader of a country in the region with strong democratic traditions. 

Berlin Plans for Post-Mubarak Era (Spiegel Online)

After years of turning a blind eye, politicians in Germany are admitting that Berlin did too little to pressure Egypt’s authoritarian regime to undertake democratic reforms. President Hosni Mubarak had long been considered a guarantor of peace in the Middle East. Now the German political establishment is considering what the next Egyptian government might bring.
German politicians are trying to find a balance between dealing with a Mubarak government that is still in power and an opposition that is becoming more open and self-confident. "We are not standing on a domestic policy side, but rather on the side of values, human rights, democracy, civil rights, freedom of assembly, freedom of opinion and freedom of the press," said Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, who is currently visiting Israel. The foreign minister is there for long-planned German-Israeli government consultations. 

Ireland Expels Russian Diplomat (AP / Wall Street Journal)

Ireland ordered a Russian diplomat to be expelled Tuesday, after an investigation concluded that the country’s intelligence service used stolen Irish identities as cover for spies operating in the U.S.
Ireland opened the investigation six months ago after the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation smashed a Russian spy ring involving 11 men and women posing as American civilians. 

Wilson: Turkey matters in all US foreign policy priorities (Today’s Zaman)

Former US Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson has said that despite the different points of view between the US and Turkey, Turkey is taken into consideration in almost all of the high-level foreign policy priorities of the US.
Speaking at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta on Jan. 27 as part of the Atlanta-based Istanbul Center’s Distinguished Speaker Series, Wilson said Turkey is undergoing a fundamental transformation, but that this is not correctly understood in the US.
Saying that the ruling party is using nationalist, and sometimes populist, tactics to increase its popularity, Wilson said the previous political system was open but included several authoritarian elements and that the regime was embraced by only a small section of the society. As a result of the transformation in the country, Wilson said, Turkey is more powerful now than it has been for centuries. 
EU urged to devise Afghanistan strategy (EurActiv)

A delegation of Afghan officials has called on the EU to forge a joint strategy for Afghanistan, saying that progress could be enhanced if the international community cooperated more in the region.

The situation is improving in Afghanistan, but the European Union and the international community should compare notes when it comes to helping boost security in the country or giving out aid, said lawyer Afzal Nooristani, who is executive director of the Legal Aid Organisation of Afghanistan (LAOA).


Airport Bombing Serves as Wake-Up Call (Moscow Times)

Last week’s horrifying terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport that killed 35 people should serve as a wake-up call to the public. The suicide bombing reveals the unpreparedness of government officials at all levels to deal with attacks and their inability to mount an appropriate response. President Dmitry Medvedev singled out airport security staff for their inability to avert the disaster, although they were only the last of several agencies that failed to do their jobs. Although airport security could stand to make some straightforward improvements, that is hardly the main problem. The same argument applies to the transportation police, where Medvedev made several high-profile dismissals in the wake of the attack.

Rehabilitating Yeltsin (BBC News)

For the first time since the Soviet era, a statue has been erected to a Russian political leader. The monument in Yekaterinburg, Boris Yeltsin’s home city, is the centrepiece of the celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of his birth.
Until recently, state-owned channels had been emphasising the out-of-control criminality associated with the Yeltsin years, but this week his official reputation appears to have been re-evaluated with the broadcast of stirring TV documentaries. 

The test for Ashton and Europe (The Economist)

Foreign affairs is back at the forefront of the European Union, for the moment at least. The euro crisis is in a chronic rather than an acute phase, and no big decisions on the euro are expected at Friday’s summit. Time, then, to consider the political crises around the EU’s rim, from Belarus’s rigged election and violent suppression of opposition protests, to unrest in Albania and, of course, the spread of the anti-government protests—the “jasmine revolution”—across North Africa and the Middle East.
These represent a big test of the ability of the External Action Service, the EU’s “foreign ministry” headed by Catherine Ashton, to respond to unexpected events.  

EU’s Consumers Going Into Their Shells (Wall Street Journal)

The gloom that descended on European consumers in 2008 shows no signs of lifting, with rising prices and the threat of low or falling real wages adding to concerns about jobs and the prospect, if not yet the fact, of higher taxes.
Slowdowns after financial crises are particularly long and painful, but this one is taking place in a new context, the globalized economy of the early 21st century. Parts of the world haven’t been greatly affected by the crisis, and they continue to grow strongly, pushing up prices for energy and other commodities.
In other words, much of Europe’s inflation problem comes from outside Europe, or places where the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and others don’t have any influence.

Compiled with the assistance of Klée Aiken and Elyse Newman.

Image: transatlantic.jpg