Back to the Future in Cancun

I’ve been trying to understand exactly what happened at the WTO ministerial conference in Cancun. That they’ve come apart is pretty clear, but there is a certain amount of ambiguity about why and who is to blame. The crux of the matter appears to be the “Singapore issues”, for which you can find a more detailed discussion at Crooked Timber.

What are the “Singapore issues”? In most of the world, national governments get to write the laws regulating investment and taxing economic activity, and usually government contracts are, at least to some degree, offered preferentially to locally controlled or operated businesses. It seems that some combination of countries – the US, the EU and Japan – want to extend the WTO’s mandate to globalising investment and procurement rules. Apparently, the whole business first came up at the WTO ministers’ meeting in Singapore after the death of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment in 1998 – a treaty intended to address exactly these questions of government procurement and investment security.
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You can help

Does anyone have suggestions for good blogs? I’m especially interested in blogs with an European perspective and ones covering the politics of a European country or region, but any good blogs are of interest of course.

One of my megalomanical hopes for AFOE was that we could use it to create a European corner of the blogosphere. Just as there is a comics blogosphere, a linguablogger blogosphere, a German blogosphere, and on a larger scale a techie blogosphere and a US politics blogosphere, there should be a pan-European politics blogosphere.

Basically I want every worthwhile English language blog about european politics to be on our blogroll. And I want as many as possible of them to become aware of each other and start talking to each other.

I think we have enough traffic for it to be actually achievable.

The result

With the final result in Sweden’s referendum on the Euro being 56% no, 42% yes and 2% undecided the joint winners of the first Fistful of Euros prediction competition are Stefan Geens and our very own David Weman who both got closest, predicting a 54% no vote. It appears that the polls before Anna Lindh’s murder were actually quite accurate, both in predicting a ‘no’ victory and that it would be by a relatively large margin.

Calling Europe?

You might remember Henry Kissenger’s famous quip about his decision making weakness with respect to the then European Community –

“If I want to talk to Europe who do I call?”

Well, the introduction of a European Foreign Minister in the forseeable future will probably solve this problem for the likes of Mr Kissenger. But what about the rest of us? Whom do we call when we want to talk to Europe because we don’t like the latest directive regarding the amount of bubbles in sparkling wine, or to cheer up Romano Prodi after the latest insult from Mr Berlusconi, or simply to chat about clever ways for extracting money from the EU film fund by presenting our latest holiday video from Spain as a culturally vitally important common European film production?

Well, gentle readers, search no more. Here’s your answer (I accidentally stumbled upon it while looking for EU press statements regarding today’s referenda). We can call the citizen support center called “Europe direct“, open on weekdays between 09:00 and 18:30 CET.

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The results are in

Estonia said yes to the EU. 67% voted yes, 63% turnout.

Sweden said no to the euro. 56,2% voted no, 41,8% yes, 81,3 turnout.

The numbers are preliminary (postal votes aren’t counted). They can hardly change the result, but it might be too early to call a winner to Nick’s contest.

Update: In comments, Guessedworker raised the issue of another referendum. During the campaign, the prime minister and the leader of the second largest opposition party made a joint statement, explicitly ruling out another referendum in this parliament or the next, which means 2010 at the earliest. They’re not likely to go back on it, which means that Sweden will not join the eurozone until 2013 or later.

On another note, regarding Estonia’s vote, let me say Hooray! and a warm welcome our Estonian cousins.

Around the Internet

Polls indicate Estonians will vote yes to EU accession tomorrow.

In Sweden, “polls give widely differing indications as to the likely outcome of the referendum.”

The Economist has a pretty decent primer on our referendum. (Via Crooked Timber)

International Herald Tribune reported yesterday enlargement seems to be bad news for African farmers::

For France the prospect of support from Poland and Hungary is a welcome development.

For years French politicians have feared that the enlargement of the European Union would mean a dilution of French power and influence in Europe. But on the question of farm policy, enlargement could provide much-needed moral and political support.

It is a different story for groups that support a radical overhaul of the E43 billion, or $48 billion, program, for whom enlargement is a worrying prospect.

“The opportunity for reform was this summer,” said Sam Barratt of Oxfam, an aid organization that has been very critical of Europe’s farm policies. “And given the obstinacy that the French had then, when the Hungarians and the Poles join it’s going to make any reform even harder.” The number of farmers in the Union will increase by 50 percent with the admission of 10 new countries into the Union in May.


The indispenable Cosmocrat finds increasingly strong signs that the EU Constitution will be fundamentally re-examined by the Inter-Governmental Conference.

Gary Farber is back!

Stefan Geens blogs about The Wall Street Journal’s comments on Anna Lindh. He was pleasantly surprised, then quite unpleasantly surprised.

Juan Cole on Al-Qaeda’s new geostrategic masterplan

Sweden and the Euro – you decide

With Sweden voting on whether to join the Euro tomorrow, it’s a good time to test the predictive knowledge of the readers of A Fistful of Euros. So, what do you think the result of the referendum will be? Give us your prediction in the comments box and we’ll announce th winner on Monday, along with a link to your website or blog, should you have one.

This Reuters article gives the latest polling figures, with both sides averaging around the mid-40s and the undecideds seemingly the key to victory.

My prediction? No, by 53%-47% though that’s based on nothing more than pure guesswork. What do you think?

What a day

As you know, today is the second anniversary of the attack on the WTC, and the 30th anniversary of the coup in Chile.

To all victims of al-Qaida and all victims of Pinochet, to all the victims of terrorism and all victims of state terror, to all victims of war and all victims of political violence; we think of you today.