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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Greece tries to reassure as deadline looms

Greece's Prime Minister, Alex Tsipras, met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a bid to reassure Europe that Greece would do what is needed to get the next round of bailout cash. The meeting ended with mixed results, and the government has until Monday to work out the needed reforms:
Greece’s German Allies Aghast as Tsipras Fails to Assure

Meanwhile depositors are fleeing Greek banks:
Greek Bank Deposits Plunge to 10-Year Low

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Brussels Forum Day 2: Terrorism and Security



Last night there was more discussion of the situation in Ukraine, particularly from George Soros and that discussion will continue today. It seems clear that more will need to be done, and an end to the crisis is critical for the economic as well as political future for Ukraine. This morning is starting off with a discussion of terrorism and security. One question is how to manage the situations in Iraq and Syria, and whether there should be military intervention. The expectation is that it will be a long term effort to build up moderate forces in Syria and continuing to build up and support the Iraqi army.

The Turkish Minister of EU Affairs thinks that the US went into Iraq too late and came out too early, leaving behind undeveloped democratic institutions. Turkey was warning the terrorists would find a vacuum there and this is what has happened. Also lost the deterrent factor of potential US troop involvement. ISIL actually started in 2003 - many of the militants were trained in Abu Graib. Need forces on the ground to deal with the threat - Iraqis in Iraq. Syria is different, there is no state there. Need a no fly zone, and to train and equip unconventional forces. Turkey seems anxious to send back refugees. Information sharing has led to stopping many potential foreign fights from getting to Syria through Turkey. Have to find terrorism, but it's a mistake to define it as Islamic, this is a problem for Muslims. There are so many in Europe who feel like the "other" - there needs to be more focus on inclusion so these people have more hope for the future.

Gilles de Kerchov argues that the increasing number of failed/failing states is a huge problem and source of terrorists, e.g., Yemen Libya, Syria. Egypt is inward looking and Iran is becoming the superpower in the region, a problem for Sunnis. The Arab Spring has also had a major impact. It's not just an issue of integrating Muslim immigrants, the larger regional issues are playing a role. Europe was not up to the challenge of the Arab Spring - they should have done more, and done it more quickly. Should be more open in terms of access to universities, etc...Now engaging much more than before in the Mediterranean. The hijacking of ideology is a problem. There needs to be more support for training of Imams. Another problem is the internet - Europe tries to find a balance, asking for the removal of illegal content but still protect free speech. Very different laws across Europe, some are completely open, others make things like Holocaust denial a crime [e.g. France has a very confusing mix of laws when it comes to free speech.] Law enforcement cooperation with Turkey is an important component, but Turkey needs to adopt acquis on policing and justice.

Susan Herman from the ACLU discussed issues around security and civil liberties. What are the costs of too much surveillance? The threat to privacy, do we have it anyway? The threat to liberty, privacy is connected to freedom of speech, religion, etc...Having some privacy from the government is critical. The third concern is equality - who is we? Most Americans feel it's not affecting them, just Muslim men. Finally what is the connection between privacy and democracy? People are supposed to run the government. The people have become increasingly transparent and the government has become increasingly opaque. The PATRIOT act allowed the government to keep secret the level of surveillance and agencies were acting in violation of existing law. What about unintended consequences. The mass collection of data is as much of a problem as what is done with the data. We still don't have adequate accountability or transparency. There are clearly different consequences when government collects data vs. companies like Facebook or Google.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Brussels Forum - Day 1: Russia, Ukraine, NATO and the EU

Much of the discussion on the first day has focused on US-NATO-Russia relations. In the first discussion between German Defense Minister Ursula Van Der Leyen and Zbigniew Brzezinski discussed the role of the military in Germany and EU actions in regard to Ukraine. Von Der Leyen defended the focus on diplomacy in Ukraine. Brzezinski called for accommodation of some of Russia's aims but clear deterrence. As Von Der Leyen put it, there must be clear costs for Russia not only militarily or in loss of lives, but also in terms of economic loss. Brzezinski was also concerned that Putin flaunts the nuclear threat, something which hasn't happened in decades. He argued that the only outcome in Ukraine is one in which both sides can walk away with something for their constituents.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that we are not in the days of the cold war, but we are not in the cooperative situation we were because Russia has broken the rules by sending troops and materiel into Eastern Ukraine, taking over Crimea, issues with Moldova and Georgia, etc...

David Ignatius of the WSJ asks how NATO would respond to a cyber attack - would it trigger artile 5? Stoltenberg basically says yes, any attack on any ally is something NATO is responding to - any kind of attach. Also have to defend NATO infrastructure. Kosachev asks if NATO would bomb a country that conducted a cyber attack?

Konstantin Kosachev, representing the Russian Federation Council on International Affairs focused on grievances going back to the end of the cold war. Says he doesn't understand NATO strategy and what would happen if certain member states would declare Russia as a country behind a cyber attack. Stoltenberg says NATO will respond in a proportionate way - won't say how we would respond. Kosachev says Russia would not respond militarily (the crowd is skeptical).

Secretary Victoria Nuland pointed out the the US hasn't decided whether or not to give Ukraine defensive weapons, but that it was still under consideration.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Policy asks if what is happening in Ukraine, what she sees as a violation of international law, will return to following the Minsk accord and an era of cooperation. Nuland hopes that Russia wants to live in a world where borders aren't changed by force, where journalism and free speech are respected, etc...US wanted to work with Russia, with strategic partnerships, but Russia is not interested in pursuing rules of the road.

What are the broader geo-strategic issues at stake with a rising China? Kosachev say Russia is in a perfect relationship with China. This isn't clear given Russia's economic situation...

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Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders - Strategic Alliances: Advancing Inclusive Governance


Prior to attending the Brussels Forum, I have been participating in a conference for young leaders from the US and Europe.The German Marshall Fund and the U.S. Helsinki Commission have been working on issues of diversity and inclusion for many years. This has led to the development of a program called the Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network (see twitter hashtag #TILN) which brings together young people f to learn from each other and discuss issues faced by ethnic minorities and immigrants in becoming politically active in their respective countries/regions. I have participated in this program since my research has focused on many of the issues related to policies which promote diversity and inclusion, particularly my edited volume, Immigrant Politics  which examines ways that political parties and immigrant groups have worked to incorporate young people of immigrant background into national political processes.


On the US side, caucuses have been a means of bringing together groups of legislators, and one idea is to encourage the development of caucuses in Europe and possibly on a transatlantic basis. I also spoke with representatives from several NGOs who work on issues related to race and discrimination in Europe about the possibilities for moving forward at a time when the focus has shifted to restricting immigration rather than fighting discrimination.



Some other ideas from the meeting:

Young professional exchanges like build partnerships for intl engagement and cultivate global citizenship

Universal values can define and guide a Transatlantic discussion on diversity and inclusion. 

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to developing inclusive policies." Let's share best practices.

Changing systems is a long term process. In 50 years change has been steady but there is much more to do to have effective policies.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A journey to Italy - Venice

Traveling with my son's 8th grade class from St. Francis School in Austin, TX.   Some pictures from Venice - March 12-13, 2015