Serbian election: EU signals worked?

To the extent that the EU was able to cobble together a single position on the Serbian election, it was clear that they wanted President Boris Tadic’s Coalition for a European Serbia to do well — hence the offers of an Association agreement during the election campaign and the introduction of fee-free visa travel last week. Apparently the gambit worked

Independent monitors said Tadic’s coalition had about 38 percent of the vote with about 50 percent of the vote counted nationwide. They said the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party was running a distant second with 28 percent.

While the possibility remains that a more nationalist and EU-phobic coalition could assemble against the Tadic group, the 38 percent showing gets them very close on their own. The challenge of not being perceived as “weak” on Kosovo will remain.  There is nothing in the news accounts so far referring to any attempt to administer voting in Kosovo, which would have been a flashpoint in diplomatic relations had it happened.

Eurabia Fans: Not just stupider than you think…

Stupider than you can imagine. Evidence, the map over at this fine post from Sadly, No!. Read the whole thing, but as well as introducing the best title for a blog post ever, they’ve caught “Gates Of Vienna” pretending that in the future, Europe will be divided into Islamic states (with incredibly silly names), Russian protectorates, and the Russian empire, due to teh demographic menace.

Yes, that’s right – they think Russia doesn’t have a demographics problem. They also think that although Iceland will become an Islamic state, Switzerland and, for some bizarre reason, the Czech Republic will remain “neutral”. And Germany will re-divide, with the old Federal Republic sliding into Islamic rule and the old DDR being a Russian protectorate.

Either that, or they’re using a map that’s still got East Germany on it. It feels a bit like mocking cripples to take the piss out of people who are obviously so ill-equipped to take part in any kind of debate, but, what the hell! Read the whole thing and don’t forget to bring your fisker.

But among the routine partisan knockabout, there’s a gem – this UPI article on demographics, which finally offers Randy McDonald some relief in his role as the NATO-standard debunker. Martin Walker notes the French demographic turn-around, but the especially interesting bit is that he actually has some numbers on the rate at which immigrant groups’ TFRs converge with the norm.

The birthrates of Muslim women in Europe have been falling significantly for some time. In the Netherlands, for example, the TFR among Dutch-born women rose between 1990 and 2005 from 1.6 to 1.7. In the same period for Moroccan-born women in Holland it fell from 4.9 to 2.9, and for Turkish-born women in Holland from 3.2 to 1.9.

In Austria, the TFR of Muslim women fell from 3.1 to 2.3 from 1981 to 2001. In 1970 Turkish-born women in Germany had on average two children more than German-born women. By 1996 the difference had fallen to one child and has now dropped to 0.5. These sharp falls reflect important cultural shifts, which include the impact of universal female education, rising living standards, the effect of local cultural norms and availability of contraception.

There is, as they say, no crisis. However, this doesn’t overturn something else we occasionally point out on AFOE, which is that whatever happens in Europe, the demographic transition is worldwide. Unlike my dear colleague, I personally think this is a damn good thing in the light of energy, environmental, and international security issues. I’d much rather be K-selected than r-selected.

The global trend is down, very sharply down. In all, 80 countries around the world, comprising almost half the Earth’s population, are now experiencing a birthrate that is below replacement….With a few exceptions like Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, Haiti and Guatemala, the countries still experiencing strong population growth are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Depending on its birthrate, the current 750 million are likely to become between 1.5 billion and 3 billion by the end of this century. And if European, Latin American and Arab birthrates continue to decline, then Islam as well as Christianity will be a predominantly African religion, with some outposts in Europe.

Which raises the question, what kind of Islam will that be? The rise of African Christianity has been a force for conservatism and fundamentalism in the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church; but the rise of African Islam looks likely to be a phenomenon of the city, what the Lounsbury calls the “Pious Middle” class. In this context it’s interesting to note that several African countries already have political parties that have adopted the language of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party; it’s not impossible that this Islamic Christian Democracy might find its niche in African cities.

From Ushant to Scilly is 34 leagues

For me, the interesting bit in this Jean Quatremer story about the race to be the first EU president is right at the end.

On sait simplement qu’il y a des « négociations secrètes » sur le sujet avec Londres : elles porteraient sur la création d’une force aéronavale commune et la surveillance de l’espace européen par les aviations des États membres.

Secret negotiations with the UK regarding the creation of a common naval aviation? Well, the UK and France are cooperating uneasily on their aircraft carrier programmes; the UK is trying to build two 50,000 tonne carriers, and France would like to build another ship. The partnership goes so far as to use the same design, prepared by Thales (UK)’s naval architects in Bristol; but that’s about as far.

After all, the original Thales/DCN bid to build the British carriers foresaw using their design and splitting the workshare among British and French shipyards. However, BAE Systems successfully lobbied its way back in, even though any conceivable workshare plan would have seen its yards on the Clyde getting quite a lot of business; the result is a horrible compromise under which BAE is joint-prime contractor with Thales (as if the idea wasn’t a contradiction in terms), but has to use the Thales drawings and split the work among the UK shipyards (but no French ones. no, sir).

And the British government has spent a lot of time blowing hot and cold about the project; however, it has recently begun buying stuff for the ships, and the key industrial partner, Babcocks, have completed altering the huge drydock in Rosyth where the ships will be assembled from the superblocks the various yards will deliver. Surprisingly, though, these orders haven’t been coordinated with France in any way – part of the point was saving on things like steel purchases and expensive things like marine engines by pooled buying. So far, we’re up to the following shopping list:

* Eight diesel engines and electricity generators – four for each ship – at a cost of about £18.5 million. The contract for the diesel generators had been awarded to Wartsila Defence SAS, based in Nantes, France, with the engines to be manufactured in Trieste, Italy. The alternators, which transform the diesel’s power into electricity, are to be built at Converteam, in Rugby, Warwickshire.
* A contract worth in excess of £1 million for the detailed design of an integrated navigation and bridge system had been awarded to Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine, with the work to be carried out at New Malden in Surrey.
* A contract for the Flying Control Rooms (Flyco) for the carriers had been awarded to Tex Special projects of Ipswich, Suffolk at a cost of circa £1 million; and
* A contract for visual landing aids to guide fighters and helicopters on to the deck had been awarded to Aeronautical and General Instruments Ltd of Poole, Dorset at a cost of about £7.5 million.
* The supply of over 80,000 tonnes of steel from Corus for manufacture of the two ships to an estimated value of £65 million;
* The supply of Blown Fibre Optic Cable Plant (BFOCP) technology from Brand-Rex Limited for the installation of optical cables for data transfer within the ships at a cost in excess of £3 million;
* Reverse osmosis equipment from Salt Separation Services for production of fresh water onboard the ships at an initial contract value in excess of £1 million; and
* Aviation fuel systems equipment from Fluid Transfer International to allow the fuelling and de-fuelling of embarked aircraft at a contract value of approximately £4 million.

I honestly can’t see why it’s a dealbreaker to do the shipbuilding in the UK when doing the marine engineering in Italy is A-OK; but there you go. However, there are the feelings too; my heart melts at the thought of those alternators from Rugby and mirror sights from Poole. I can’t help it; as a lefty northern techie, I’m a confirmed manufacturing fetishist.

But you’ll notice that the UK does seem to be edging towards actually building the ships, without any noticeable joint procurement with France. So what is it that’s being secretly discussed? I reckon it’s that the French don’t want to go through with the PA-2 (their new carrier), but they are also conscious of the problems that having one aircraft carrier brings you. Whenever the Charles de Gaulle is in dock, her aviators soon cease to be current; so, the Aeronavale sends them for a trip with the Americans in order to maintain carrier qualification (currently, they are practising on the Theodore Roosevelt). I can well imagine the French would rather do this themselves, but anyway would prefer to do it in Europe. Also, a deal with Britain might provide a claim on the British carriers during French downtime; the question has to be, what’s in it for the UK? Are they considering making a contribution?

Meanwhile, Turkey is the latest contributor to Europe’s emerging amphibious fleet, wanting to buy a big LPH/light carrier. That makes 29.


Well, MMDCXXXVI, actually.

That’s how many posts WordPress tells us we have put up in four and a half years of AFOE. It’s been a while since we marked an anniversary. Europe Day seems as good a time as any to thank the authors, the guests, and especially the readers who have made and continue to make this endeavor so much more than fun.

I’ll keep an eye on the WordPress ticker, and we can all make Homer Simpson jokes at MMM.

Slovakia’s Euro Entry Bid Accepted

Slovakia today won EU approval to adopt the euro on Jan. 1 2009, thus becoming the 16th member of the European single currency zone. The EU Commission announced today on its Web site that Slovakia had reduced both the fiscal deficit and inflation sufficiently to qualify. At the same time the Commission announced that they were terminating the excess deficit procedure, a move which is a mandatory to joining the euro region.

EU finance ministers must now endorse the commission’s recommendation in July. Not everybody is entirely convinced it seems, and the European Central Bank still has “considerable concerns” about the sustainability of the inflation path, according to a report published by the bank today in Frankfurt. I share many of these concerns – as I have already explained at great length in this post here.

Even in Slovakia itself people retain their own reservations as according to a survey conducted by the Slovak Statistical Office between March 1-7 some 72 percent of respondents had a negative attitude towards the proposed change due to the perception that – in a way which is similar to what happened in countries like Spain and Greece after adoption – prices may well rise faster than anticipated and household budgets become strained.

However I do think that today is really not the time to pursue these concerns, since at this point they would smack more of sour grapes than of anything else. I would really simply like to take this opportunity to congratulate Slovakia on all the hard work they have put in to preparing their membership bid, and wish them every success in the introduction of what now looks like it is soon set to become their new currency.

“To ensure that the adoption of the euro is a success, Slovakia must pursue its efforts to maintain a low-inflation environment, be more ambitious with regard to budgetary consolidation and strengthen its competitiveness position,” EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia

Of course eyes well beyond Slovakia will now be watching the month by month movements in the Slovak CPI, since should the more optimistic expectations on the future inflation path not be fulfilled, then this will only make further applications from other EU10 countries – Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Romania, Poland and Hungary – much more difficult in the future.

Discordant note

In what seems like incredible clumsiness on someone’s part, the Culloden hotel (outside Belfast) got a request from Northern Ireland’s regional development agency which was interpreted as calling for the hotel’s minority staff to keep a low profile during meetings of a big foreign investment conference later this week —

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Comfortable thoughts: The Rise of the Rest

Just a short linkdump post. Newsweek has an interesting opinion piece by Fareed Zakaria entitled The Rise of the Rest that ties in nicely with my previous post Uncomfortable thoughts and philosophy. Zakaria is much more positive about the emergence of new global powers, even when he understands the transition engenders some degree of anxiety:

American anxiety springs from something much deeper, a sense that large and disruptive forces are coursing through the world. In almost every industry, in every aspect of life, it feels like the patterns of the past are being scrambled. “Whirl is king, having driven out Zeus,” wrote Aristophanes 2,400 years ago. And—for the first time in living memory—the United States does not seem to be leading the charge. Americans see that a new world is coming into being, but fear it is one being shaped in distant lands and by foreign people.

Writing from an American perspective, he concludes his exposé with (emphasis mine):

Americans—particularly the American government—have not really understood the rise of the rest. This is one of the most thrilling stories in history. Billions of people are escaping from abject poverty. The world will be enriched and ennobled as they become consumers, producers, inventors, thinkers, dreamers, and doers. This is all happening because of American ideas and actions. For 60 years, the United States has pushed countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. American diplomats, businessmen, and intellectuals have urged people in distant lands to be unafraid of change, to join the advanced world, to learn the secrets of our success. Yet just as they are beginning to do so, we are losing faith in such ideas. We have become suspicious of trade, openness, immigration, and investment because now it’s not Americans going abroad but foreigners coming to America. Just as the world is opening up, we are closing down.

There are a lots of interesting ideas in Zakaria’s post. He even confirms Jamie’s recent post Tibet, Trade and Consumer Nationalism:

As economic fortunes rise, so inevitably does nationalism. Imagine that your country has been poor and marginal for centuries. Finally, things turn around and it becomes a symbol of economic progress and success. You would be proud, and anxious that your people win recognition and respect throughout the world.

And the quote that goes best with my own (poorly written) attempt at addressing the impact the rise of new powers may have on Western thoughts/values (emphasis mine):

The result is that the “rest” are now dissecting the assumptions and narratives of the West and providing alternative views. A young Chinese diplomat told me in 2006, “When you tell us that we support a dictatorship in Sudan to have access to its oil, what I want to say is, ‘And how is that different from your support of a medieval monarchy in Saudi Arabia?’ We see the hypocrisy, we just don’t say anything—yet.”

Yummy!Go have a read.