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Ministers from France, Germany, and Italy are expected to meet in Rome this week to tackle youth unemployment and introduce reforms to relaunch growth and competitiveness. What is at stake is the European project. The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, described it as a "battle for Europe's unity", and warned that a revolution might occur if Europe's welfare model is abandoned. Joblessness is an emergency and it is good sign that it is on top of the agenda of the next European Council (to be held end of June). President Van Rompuy acknowledged  that the number of unemployed people in the Union, especially of the unemployed young, is at record levels. At last, European leaders are addressing social issues alongside economic ones.
The European Commission has proposed a series of measures in the framework of the Youth Employment Package: the European Alliance for
A year from now, at the end of May 2014, a new European Parliament will be elected. Before that, in September, the Germans will vote - deciding to keep or eject Angela Merkel, and the make-up of the governing coalition.
ECFR is using this opportunity to launch a new series on our blog – the “Berlin Notebook.” The idea is not only to follow the elections closely from Berlin, and deal with the various questions it throws up, but also to observe the shifts and changes within the new German government in the months ahead of the EP elections. This should help us understand whether or not the year 2014 will be a tipping point; whether or not it becomes the moment when Europe reconciles itself with its citizens, gets serious about integration, starts building a fully-fledged European democracy, and overcomes some old fashioned notions of sovereignty and nationalism.
Looking back, the
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He is young and experienced, but - most importantly - he is a truly European. Enrico Letta, 46, the new Italian Prime Minister, is probably the last chance Italy has to avoid new elections. In a country paralysed by stagnation and where enterprises shut down every day, his first address was significant: "austerity measures” he said “have reached their limits." He also quoted President Barroso where he pointed out the urgency to place stronger emphasis on growth, including in the short term.
My bet is that European partners, as well as international markets, will like him. Letta has an old connection to the Union: from 2004 to 2006 he was MEP with the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, sitting in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. At the age of 32 he was Minister for European Affairs under the first D'Alema government (becoming the youngest
Perplexity. That's what’s conveyed by the clash over austerity going on between the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The debate is as extremely technical as it is profoundly political. In essence, it’s about how much national GDP falls with every point of tax cut. While it may seem rather complex, it’s actually rather simple: depending on the extent of the so-termed "fiscal multiplier", tax cuts can pump an economy back to life – or deflate it.
National and international blogs where economists debate these matters are abuzz with analyses and counter-analyses that attack and defend the austerity policies pursued by the EU. The problem is not just that the discussion about the fiscal multipliers has reached levels of complexity that delight only academics. The issue is that,
Deaf, inconsistent, and reckless: with these words a furious and tired Giorgio Napolitano, 87, referred to the parliament in his inaugural address on Monday as the reconfirmed (for the first time in Italy history) Italian head of state. He threatened to leave if politicians continue to act with “irresponsibility.” “I have a duty to be frank. If I find myself once again facing the kind of deafness I ran into in the past, I will not hesitate to draw the consequences,” he said, sounding like a teacher scolding his pupils. The warning was welcomed with warm and prolonged applause. It was a public admonishment over continued negligence that had hurt the country just as it had benefitted the political parties for many years.
The reconfirmation of Napolitano came after days of uncertainty and division. Notwithstanding his age and his stated desire to retire, Napolitano had no choice:
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