Six years ago the Romanian Institute for Marketing and Polling reported that 64% of the people felt that their nation was moving in the right direction, toward free-market democracy. Yet last September another survey showed that 49% of Romanians, almost half, felt that life was better for them under communism.
Internet whistleblower website WikiLeaks plans to release information on tax evasion by the rich and famous after obtaining two disks of information from former Cayman Islands branch chief of Swiss banking firm Julius Baer Bank & Trust Company Ltd. The Cayman Islands is a well-known haven for investments because the Caribbean island nation has no income, capital gains, profit, or estate taxes in addition to highly secretive banking laws.
On Jan. 16, the news syndicate Breitbart reported that the U.S. embassy in Geneva has been conducting illegal surveillance on Swiss territory. In 2006 and 2007 U.S. missions in Geneva and Bern had requested protection of their buildings through surveillance programs, but the requests were denied.
In defiance of all logic, the eurozone weathered a week of harrowing instability this past week, with Portugal, Spain, and Italy managing to persuade the bond markets that their sovereign debt is still worth the risk. Portugal was the primary focus of concern in this latest iteration of European economic upheaval, with speculation rife that the Iberian nation would be forced to accept an international bailout along the lines of what Greece and Ireland have already received. The Portuguese government spent the week leading up to last Wednesday’s successful auction of government bonds denying that Portugal needed outside assistance to solve its debt problem, and Wednesday’s results appeared to vindicate those claims.
Even as the European Union is bankrupting itself with bailouts, the EU’s top Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Wednesday that the €440 billion ($570 billion) bailout fund for struggling European nations should not only be increased but given more powers. According to Rehn, the eurozone governments are currently considering the proposal to increase the size of the funds.
The European Union announced today that they would be reinstating a travel ban against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and 40 of his close associates, following his crackdown on political opponents in the country’s elections, which were held on December 19, 2010.
In a November 16, 2010 speech, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy warned that the eurozone economic crisis threatened the very existence of the EU. “We’re in a survival crisis,” Van Rompuy said. “We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don’t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union.”
German sociologist and political economist Max Weber once defined a state as an institution that “successfully upholds a claim on the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in the enforcement of its order.” States, of course, prefer not to be thought of in such terms, so they generally couch their employment of force in less threatening phrases, such as “helping the poor” rather than “robbing the rich,” creating “collateral damage” rather than “murdering innocents,” or even (as Bill Clinton would have it) “accepting contributions” rather than “collecting taxes.” Let someone get in the state’s way, however, and the velvet glove comes off, revealing the iron fist underneath.
New year, new crisis. For the beleaguered, once-independent nations of Europe now entangled in the eurozone, the economic drama unfolding in Portugal this week looks woefully familiar. According to the latest speculations in the financial press, the Portuguese government is now under pressure from other European governments to accept a bailout from the EU, much like what happened with Ireland last fall. As with Ireland, Portugal is now denying the need for any bailout, insisting that she can solve her own problems with spending cuts, tax hikes, and other budgetary modifications.