Europe

Jose SocratesWhen the Portuguese Parliament failed to pass an austerity bill on March 23, the country’s Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, resigned. That move leaves Portugal leaderless for at least two months while facing a significant financial crisis: it must refinance nearly $13 billion of short-term debt by June. Investors have already pushed interest rates on Portugal’s sovereign 10-year debt to almost 8 percent, while credit-rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s both downgraded that debt’s quality on March 24.

drugsOn the 50th anniversary of the United Nations treaty that led to the global “War on Drugs,” a group of prominent officials and legislators from the United Kingdom declared the battle a failure and formed a commission calling for new policies to deal with problems associated with drugs.

The European Union is seeking broad new powers over the formerly sovereign nations of Europe, including direct taxation, further centralization of economic decisions, the ability to levy massive fines on national governments, harmonization of corporate tax policy, and more, prompting a fierce backlash by activists and even some governments.

A poll of public opinion in five nations of the European Union reveals a high level of distrust of government to solve the problems confronting them today. If the findings of the poll are accurate, a majority of Europeans in some of the largest and most influential nations of the EU believe that their governments are, in fact, part of the problem.

The European Union, which is enduring severe financial crises in several of its member states, including Greece and Ireland, and internal stresses in artificial nations such as Belgium, may soon face new woes. The fear of German or Franco-German hegemony is already producing some quiet anger among smaller nations.

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