Atlantic Update 6/23/2011


European leaders react positively towards President Obama’s declaration to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The EU extended its sanctions against the Syrian regime. In the European missile defense arena, Aselsan won a $1B contract with the Turkish Air Defense. The Greek financial crisis is the top priority of the EU summit in Brussels this week. Is the EU’s new financial bailout package and stricter austerity measures for Greece going to work?


Greek unions prepare 48-hour strike against new cost-cutting (Ria Novosti)

Greek unions are preparing a 48-hour strike for the next week, the country’s largest trade union association GSEE announced on Thursday.
The strike is scheduled for June 28-29 to coincide with a debate in the parliament on new austerity measures, the medium-term saving program of almost 30 billion euros by 2015.

EU summit looks to Greece for consensus on austerity (Deustche Welle)

Heads of the 27 European Union states meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, with plans for a second emergency loan package for Greece at the top of the agenda. Bailout plans for Greece will be the key issue at an EU summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels – but not the only topic on the agenda: Croatia has moved closer to finalizing its European Union entry negotiations.

EU summit to gloss over euro crisis (EurActiv)

On the cusp of another EU summit to address the Greek crisis and Europe’s economic future, diplomats speak of a "shambolic union" while draft summit conclusions seen by EurActiv boast progress. A summit in Brussels today (23 June) will attempt to move forward on a litany of disagreements including further Greek aid and reforms to a body of laws to tackle national debts. But draft Council conclusions due for publication tomorrow, and obtained by EurActiv, speak more of progress than do lawmakers involved. Diplomats who have followed a two-year journey of economic reforms in countries riddled by debt speak of a "shambolic" reform process. 

The battle for Schengen: More Europe in the next decade (EUObserver)

The European debate on Schengen was so intense and strategic for the common European future that it managed to at times push the story of the financial crisis in Greece, Portugal and Ireland to the inside pages. At first glance, the debate concerned the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area but the debate was actually much deeper; it raised the question of the future protection of European borders in general.

Aselsan Wins $1B Turkish Air Defense Contract (Defense News)

Turkey’s largest defense company, Aselsan, has penned a 721 million euro ($1 billion) contract to sell low- and medium-altitude air defense systems to the Turkish military. This is the largest contract awarded to a local company this year. Aselsan said in a written statement that the deal was signed June 21 between the company and the country’s arms procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM). Aselsan’s prime subcontractor is another state-owned defense company, missile specialist Roketsan. Both companies are based here.

Medvedev to make internet copyright proposals ‘soon’ (Ria Novosti)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday he would soon submit his proposals on intellectual property rights and copyright regulation on the Internet. "I have commented on intellectual property right issues more than once recently," he said at a media briefing at the RIA Novosti newsroom. At the G8 summit in France last month and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week, Medvedev said the advent of the Internet means that traditional approaches toward intellectual property rights need to be changed.

European leaders back Obama’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan (Deustche Welle)

In a televised speech to the nation on Wednesday evening, US President Barack Obama announced plans for the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by autumn next year, saying the end was in sight for the NATO-led coalition. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday welcomed Obama’s announcement to begin a drawdown of US forces.

EU extends sanctions against Syrian regime (European Voice)

The European Union has extended sanctions against Syria. It has expanded an asset freeze and travel ban to seven additional individuals and four entities linked to the Syrian government. The Council of Ministers approved the widened sanctions list on Thursday (23 June) and they will take effect on Friday (24 June). Sanctions had already been imposed on 23 government officials and individuals linked to the Syrian regime whom the EU believes are responsible for violent repression of civilian protests. Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, was added to the list on 23 May.

EU agrees to boost border agency’s powers (EUObserver)

On the eve of a two-day summit covering migration issues as well as the Greek crisis, the EU’s main institutions have agreed to give extra powers to the bloc’s border agency Frontex on human trafficking and other cross-border crimes. The deal reached on Wednesday (22 June) by EU governments, the European Parliament and the European Commission will allow Frontex to buy or lease its own equipment – such as helicopters and terrain vehicles, so as to make it less dependent on assets lent by member states.

Medvedev speech: nod or challenge to Putin’s upper hand? (CS Monitor)

Political competition is always a good thing, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Monday, but the much-discussed idea of an open presidential face off between himself and his powerful predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, would be bad for the country. Mr. Medvedev’s comments, made in an extensive interview with Britain’s Financial Times newspaper just days after challenging the state-led system built by Mr. Putin at an international economics forum, has many observers scratching their heads about his intentions.

"I think that any leader who occupies such a post as president, simply must want to run," Medvedev said. But, he added, "the people must provide an answer to this one. They define whether they want to see this person or not and, as an acting politician, I will be guided by that in taking my decision. I think that we will have not very long to wait and I think that the decision will be correct, both for the rest of the federation and myself."

Bankruptcy looms for Saab as it runs out of cash to pay staff their wages (Guardian)

Saab is on the brink of bankruptcy after the Swedish carmaker admitted that it cannot pay the wages and salaries of its 3,700 employees. Losses that were sustainable under previous owner General Motors are on the verge of overwhelming Saab’s Dutch parent, Swedish Automobile, which was forced to stop salary payments for 1,500 factory workers. The IF Metall union set the clock ticking on the company, warning it that within a fortnight it will enforce bankruptcy proceedings to reclaim the unpaid wages.

A Saab spokeswoman admitted that about 2,200 office workers, designers and engineers might not be paid as Sweden goes into a holiday period. Apologising for leaving production line staff out of pocket, she added: "The last thing we want is to be forced to come with this very sad news the day before a major Swedish holiday. We would not have done this if we were in a situation where we had an alternative."

Raytheon Lands Romanian ATM Radar Deal (Aviation International News)

Romania has ordered Raytheon mode-S monopulse secondary surveillance radars for three of its airports as part of its upgrade to comply with European Union requirements for air traffic management. The U.S. company will supply Condor series 300 systems for en-route radar sites at Henri Coanda (Otopeni), Constanta and Arad international airports over the next 20 months, with the first system due to be installed at Otopeni airport in November.


If Greece goes… (The Economist)

The European Union seems to have adopted a new rule: if a plan is not working, stick to it. Despite the thousands protesting in Athens, despite the judders in the markets, Europe’s leaders have a neat timetable to solve the euro zone’s problems. Next week Greece is likely to pass a new austerity package. It will then get the next €12 billion ($17 billion) of its first €110 billion bail-out, which it needs by mid-July. Assuming the Europeans agree on a face-saving “voluntary” participation by private creditors to please the Germans, a second bail-out of some €100 billion will follow. This will keep the country afloat through 2013, when a permanent euro-zone bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), will take effect. The euro will be saved and the world will applaud. 

Save the Euro (Der Spiegel)

There are plenty of ideas going around for how best to save the euro. But most importantly, politicians must finally tell their voters the truth: We must help the Greeks and it will be expensive — for everybody involved. After over a year of futile attempts to rescue the euro , it would be difficult for even the most ardent supporters of the common currency to avoid coming to the same conclusion: The euro zone is anything but an optimal currency area. The level of economic productivity in the 17 member countries is simply too disparate. In the core, there are booming regions like Germany, while members on the periphery are ailing and at risk of drowning in their quagmire of debt.

Turkey: The predictable elections that matter (EUObserver)

This rise in Ankara’s influence means that even predictable political events – like the parliamentary elections of 12 June – matter. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is on its way to a third consecutive term in office. But this is vote is not about business as usual, and the result will leave its imprint on the political model Turkey is heading towards. It will certainly raise important questions about Turkish neighborhood policy, and that means that it will also raise important strategic questions for the EU.

How European Elites Lost a Generation (Der Spiegel)

The European Union is in bad shape. Not only is the common currency in a shambles and the economies of many member states moribund, but young Europeans no longer see how the EU helps them. Millions of them are taking to the streets to demand a future.

Why the ‘Anti-NATO’ Won’t Grow (The Diplomat)

Germany is prepared to help Greece, but only if private creditors are involved in any new bailout plan. The European Central Bank, however, remains opposed to any kind of debt restructuring. German commentators say the ECB, having bought billions in Greek bonds, is too deeply involved to be independent. The European Central Bank may not think much of the German government’s plans to save Greece from its debt crisis, but at least German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has found support at home. On Friday, the German parliament, the Bundestag, voted in favor of a motion that clears the way for more aid for Athens. The motion was proposed by the coalition parties — the conservative Christian Democratic Union, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union and the business-friendly Free Democratic Party — and ties support for a new bailout to certain conditions. Those include the involvement of private creditors in a new rescue effort and greater privatization and austerity efforts on the part of the Greeks. The non-binding motion is designed to provide Berlin with guidelines for upcoming negotiations with Germany’s European partners over a new bailout package for Greece. 

HuiHui Ooi is with the Atlantic Council’s International Security Program.

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